Twitter Plot Summary: Eddie Murphy plays the ship, and the tiny captain of the ship, that looks like Eddie Murphy.
Director: Brian Robbins
Key Cast: Eddie Murphy, Elizabeth Banks, Gabrielle Union, Scott Caan, Ed Helms, Kevin Hart.
Five Point Summary:
1. Everything’s got a strange yellow/orange glow. It’s disconcerting.
2. Eddie Murphy is playing the captain AND a ship? My brain hurts.
3. That chap was in Buffy for a bit. He’s not been up to much…
4. Police station goes boom.
5. I am Dave Ming Chang!
It’s a commonly known fact that, animated appearances aside, Eddie Murphy has not been funny since the early 1990s. A common problem for many prominent 80s comedians is that they get older and without any good reason limit their output solely to family friendly nonsense. Well, to say “without any good reason” is perhaps a misnomer – as people get older their rebellious streaks tend to fade and they’re more inclined to play an instrument or make films their kids can watch. In any case, it is with some trepidation that one should approach any live action film starring Eddie Murphy since Beverly Hills Cop 3. Maybe with the exception of Bowfinger.
Surprisingly, it’s not as bad as first impressions would suggest. The sci-fi concept at work is of an alien vessel that crash-lands on Earth whilst on a mission to save their planet. The twist is that the ship looks like Eddie Murphy, and within that ship are a crew of tiny people, the captain of which is also Eddie Murphy. If you’ve ever read The Beano and the Numskulls comic strip, or even that episode of Dr Who featuring the tiny Teselecta crew (in the Matt Smith episode Let’s Kill Hitler) then you have a good idea what’s going on. What follows is the classic trope of the alien misunderstanding all of Earth’s customs and having to learn how to fit in. This voyage of discovery is juxtaposed with the story of the obligatory child outsider, who is bullied at school and has a single mother. Can you see where this is going yet? Well don’t, because it doesn’t. Whilst Dave Ming Chang, the name selected by the ship’s crew as “the most common name on Earth” is sidetracked a little by Elizabeth Banks’ Gina Morrison, the police (and one would assume, the armed forces) are on Dave’s trail believing him to either be an alien invader or just some nut who decided to bury his face in the dirt. Meanwhile the Captain holds firm that interacting with the humans, and in particular Banks and her son (who found the MacGuffin in the first place) will ultimately lead them back to the MacGuffin that will save their planet and let them get home.
Of course it would be too easy to just have them sidetracked by Elizabeth Banks. And thus, the role of No 2 was born. Not only is it a poo-related pun (which is probably deliberate), but his position is to be the dissenting voice aboard the good ship Dave. The whole point of the metal ball MacGuffin is to steal all of the salt from Earth’s oceans, and he’s determined to follow the mission through to its bitter end. Meanwhile the rest of the crew are starting to undergo changes in behaviour as a result of spending time on Earth. Most notably is No 4, the gruff Worf-esque security type who morphs into a camp fashionista called Johnny Dazzle.
Unlike some other supposedly family-friendly films (we’re looking at you, Black Knight), Meet Dave never tries to be anything more than perfect family fodder – no hints at bad language or suggestive situations, no ridiculous overacting (although many of the cast, Ed Helms in particular, dial it up to 9 rather than 11), and production values are generally crisp. Some terrible green screen work aside, it never looks massively cheap.
Reading back on the history of the film, it appears that the script had input from a number of different sources, which often acts to the detriment of the final film. Certainly, it’s noted that the original idea was for the film to appeal to a broader audience but this was subsequently targeted at the family market. Generally speaking, the more people who work on a script, the worse it is when it finally gets made. Throw in improvisation on set and you’ll end up with a film that doesn’t represent the writer’s original idea. This is nothing new, but Meet Dave could have turned out much, much worse than this.
So the jury’s in and, whilst certainly not a patch on his earlier more anarchic work, Eddie Murphy is likeable and the story is adequate. Younger audiences will get the most out of it, other than a few amusing lines dotted throughout, there’s little appeal for anybody else.
Favourite scene: Dave has just won a hot dog eating contest and has to evacuate his bowel.
Quote: “Time for me to exit into the night!”
Silly Moment: The CGI monstrosity that is the Captain and No 3 trying to get back into the ship after being expelled by No 2.