So, full disclosure: I dragged myself to this movie with the lowest of expectations. Things like Norbit and The Adventures of Pluto Nash danced through my mind and I prayed to the comedy gods to spare me a numbingly unfunny experience. I mean, I've just barely recovered from The Love Guru.
And guess what: They sort of heard my prayers. I'm happy to report that Eddie Murphy's new comedy (that even he couldn't bring himself to watch) isn't all that bad. I wouldn't say it's good, either, but my soul is intact and I'm not as worried about the fate of all that is funny, so those are good signs. What's more, I came away with a renewed sense of Eddie Murphy's talent, and I think it's possible he might be back on that screen making me hurt with laughter one of these days.
To see what I think gets in the way of Murphy's hilarity in Meet Dave, making this another one of his forgettable comedies,
When I first saw the trailer, I thought the premise was weird and even kinda gross. Little people running around inside Eddie Murphy? Falling out of his ears? No thanks. Plus I figured it was bound to get real scatological, real fast. Well, turns out it's actually a fairly inspired idea for a movie, and as I watched I saw glimpses of what could have been. Little tiny aliens coming to earth in a space vessel in the form of Eddie Murphy (who also plays the captain in charge of a Star Trek-like crew inside) starts out as a ridiculously silly twist on the extraterrestrial comedy, and I'll be honest, I couldn't help but smile.
My smile only widened during scenes in which Eddie Murphy takes those funny muscles and gives them a good workout. In the beginning when the aliens are learning how to get their human to stroll down the street, his brilliant herky-jerky walk is like a lesson in physical comedy. There is also a running gag in which the aliens decide that it's best to make their vessel just copy human behavior when they're not quite sure of the proper response. So when a good-natured character shakes hands with "Dave," Murphy does a pretty hilarious imitation right back at him that's akin to the "white man's over bite" in how dorkishly affable it is.
However, there is a "but," and it's a big one. Despite a handful of shimmering moments of good old-fashioned comedy, the movie crumbles under mostly idiotic jokes (he poops money, for example) and a plot so cliched you could bet $100 pooped dollars every 10 minutes on what will happen next and walk out rich.
Bottom line: Meet Dave will remind you that Eddie Murphy made hilarious movies once upon a time, but will make you wonder why he makes movies that are beneath him — and you.
Photos courtesy of 20th Century Fox