Date: July 11
Rob Greenberg, Bill Corbett
J. Clark Mathis
one over the age of 10 will need to make time to see the new Eddie
Murphy film (parents excepted), but Meet Dave is too cute and
innocuous to get worked up over, which makes even this slight trifle
an improvement over some of Murphy’s recent comedies.
A space ship
shaped like a man in a white three-piece suit lands head first next
to the Statue of Liberty and then gingerly walks the streets of New
York. He—it?—observes the humans, mimics their smiles and tries
to blend in. He’s piloted by a crew of aliens who look human except
they’re the size of an earth thumb. They sit inside the ship’s
head, and they’ve come in search of an orb they sent to suck our
planet’s oceans dry. Why they need so much water is explained
quickly and perfunctorily, but the important thing is that the orb
has been deterred from its mission by an unsuspecting earth boy.
Eddie Murphy, Elizabeth Banks, Gabrielle Union, Scott Caan, Ed Helms
Dave is a children’s film in the same vein as The Shaggy Dog
(1959) and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), movies where
science takes a back seat to the fantastic what-if, and plot takes a
back seat to humorous situations. Given the setup, this entire crew
could be seen as villainous, bent on destroying the earth. Instead,
they’re presented as dim-witted professionals, agape in the
confusing city like a band of Amish farmers armed with a Zagat guide.
Sucking the earth dry is easily forgotten when you’re struggling to
learn human handshakes.
filmmakers take a keep-it-simple approach to juvenile humor. They
just want to make you chuckle—which is fair enough—and convey the
messages of a few prominent sponsors, one of which is named at least
a dozen times. Pointing out the plot’s inconsistencies feels like
picking on a 20-pound weakling since the story is just a twig on
which to hang clean jokes, modest set pieces and a slightly gooey
romance. The special effects are mostly adequate, and each character
has only one trait, which makes getting to know everyone a lot
easier. The boy who’s being bullied at school, his widowed mom who
needs to love again, the effeminate security officer—the film
systematically avoids delving any more deeply than that.
the end, Meet Dave deflects the budding romance that it can’t
resolve, saves one planet at the expense of another, and shoots
everything back to its celestial home without considering the more
troubling side of each of those equations. I doubt many kids will
follow the bit about using an orb to desalinate the earth’s water,
but that’s just the MacGuffin of a film whose nature is to whiff
across the top of a kid’s head and then evaporate, which it does,
leaving almost no residue.