Meet Dave

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Meet Dave

Release Date: July 11
Director: Brian Robbins
Writers: Rob Greenberg, Bill Corbett
Cinematographer: J. Clark Mathis

No 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.

Starring: Eddie Murphy, Elizabeth Banks, Gabrielle Union, Scott Caan, Ed Helms

Meet 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.
The 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.
In 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.