Meet Dave, he’s a culmination of years of effort, of trial and error, hard work and sacrifice. He’s been manufactured for the sole purpose of fulfilling one mission – to salvage what’s left of a fading star. In short, he’s the latest Eddie Murphy-driven vehicle that’s being used to jump-start a stalling career. Literally. The tagline is ‘Eddie Murphy in Eddie Murphy in Meet Dave’. Has Murphy finally travelled so far up his own arse that he’s being billed twice? If only it were that interesting.
It’s what The Borrowers might have been like if they’d managed to scrounge the complete Jerry Springer box set.
After an environmental disaster on their home planet, a crew of Nilians follow the trajectory of a special orb they’ve sent ahead of themselves to absorb the Earth’s vast supplies of water for the salt that is vital for the survival of the Nil race. There is a major snag: compared to humans, the Nils are only a few inches high. To compensate for this, the crew arrive in a fully operational man-shaped spaceship, its appearance devised from watching reruns of seventies television shows and their captain, No.1 (Murphy).
Using Google and mimicry, The Nils infiltrate Earth culture to find the precious orb only to discover that it is already in the hands of moppet-topped kid, Josh (played by Annie-alike Austyn Myers), and his pretty single mother, Gina Morrison (Elizabeth Banks, Slither). By acting as Dave for the benefit of the Morrisons, the Nils fast become ‘infected’ by earthly ways and start to turn more human by the day.
The peril eventually comes from the villainous No.2 (a hastily constructed homage to pantomime baddies everywhere) and the two blundering cops who conveniently stumble upon the truth about Dave.
Despite a recent spat of tat in the box office, audiences can’t help hoping that Eddie Murphy is finally going to pull one out of the bag. However the only thing Murphy has is a barrel, and with Meet Dave, he’s scraping it. It doesn’t help that, despite negative criticism, Murphy has teamed back up with Norbit director, Brian Robbins, and is once again falling back on his apparent skill to play more than one character.
As both the captain and as Dave, Murphy gurns his way through a backlog of expressions from his heyday but never really comes close to developing a personality for either of his characters. The budding relationship between Dave and Gina is so unlikely that you wonder where the writers are going with it.
Gina’s other love interest, Mark, played by the all-American Marc Blucas (Angel in Buffy), is on hand for when she discovers that he’s a spaceship but he only really serves to look decidedly dull in comparison.
It can’t be denied that there are some funny moments here that hinge on the surreal (who hasn’t wanted to get into a taxi announcing ‘Make haste… or die!’?), but these brief pit stops aren’t enough to keep this vehicle going.
This is a film based on the broad spectrum of human emotions, motivations and experiences, yet most of the action is centred on a carnival and a hot dog eating contest.
It almost makes you want to toss the moisture-sucking orb into the ocean yourself. As for the childlike Nils, under the Earth’s influence they swiftly switch from ‘emotionless’ aliens to fulfilling a limited pool of human stereotypes. From camp security officers to scantily clad females: if imitation is the greatest form of flattery, humanity may as well throw the towel in now.
Gabrielle Union’s No.3 graduates from a simple but sweet character to a jealous, scheming woman. It’s what The Borrowers might have been like if they’d managed to scrounge the complete Jerry Springer box set. The writers, Rob Greenberg and Bill Corbett, don’t reveal an awareness of humanity beyond what they’ve seen on seventies TV shows, much like the Nils themselves.
Love and loyalty will probably keep fans in the seats, but Meet Dave is not going to be Murphy’s career-saving vehicle. It’s good as a kid’s popcorn flick, but a film version of the Numbskulls comic would have had more of an emotional impact. Perhaps he’s now only entertaining as a talking animal, or in retrospect. With Shrek Goes Forth and a possible Beverly Hills Cop IV on the way, it seems that Murphy is painfully aware that his appeal lies in past projects and that his future career is kept afloat by the sheer force of eighties nostalgia. Even good memories, however, aren’t enough to forgive Dr. Dolittle 2.