Costing a reported $100 million to make and only raking in an estimated $5.3 million its opening weekend, it appears that Meet Dave is the front-runner for the year’s biggest disaster—and that’s really saying something after The Love Guru, which hit screens only a few weeks ago and also flopped at the box office. With The Dark Knight opening later this week, a film that will certainly draw big crowds, don’t expect things to improve in the land of Eddie Murphy.
Not that any of this is surprising. Even with the modest—yet regrettable—success of last year’s Norbit (the last product of team Murphy and director Brian Robbins), it shouldn’t come as a shock that Meet Dave has gone the way of the RMS Lusitania and tanked in such a spectacular fashion. Unfortunately, this most likely doesn’t mean the end of Eddie Murphy movies; it just means more movies with Eddie Murphy in a fat suit.
The studio must have known they had a dung pile on their hands, since they changed the film’s original title, Starship Dave, to the much more innocuous Meet Dave. How making the title of your movie more unexciting is supposed to sell tickets is beyond me. Though I do have a theory the powers that be were hoping no one would notice this movie even existed, thus saving everyone involved the embarrassment. Personally, I would’ve gone with Midnight Meet Dave, but then again, there are reasons I don’t run a movie studio. But really, it’s not the title of the movie that’s the trouble, as we do, in fact, meet Dave within the first 10 minutes of the movie. It’s getting rid of him that’s the problem.
The titular Dave (Eddie Murphy) is a human-shaped spaceship piloted by very tiny aliens (and captained by a miniature Murphy). The aliens have been sent to Earth to fend off their own planet’s impending energy shortage by draining Earth’s oceans for salt. Why an advanced civilization that can travel light years across the universe can’t find an alternative energy source other than salt is never explained (nor how that would even work), but then again, this isn’t really a movie where thinking is required. Unfortunately for the aliens, the baseball-sized, meteor-shaped device that drains the Earth’s oceans (which looks like the “head juicer” from Phantasm (1979)—too bad it isn’t, given the cast) gets knocked off course, and it’s up to the crew of Dave to track it down. The idea is that humans are primitive and stupid and that destroying Earth would be no great loss. That is, of course, until the ship’s crew begins learning about human emotions in the most simplistic fashion imaginable: They learn about love by watching It’s a Wonderful Life, and as a result of hearing a show tune, one alien realizes he’s gay.
That’s the setup. There’s little to the film beyond that, other than some fish-out-of-water gags involving the robotic Dave acclimating himself to his new culture. None of these are particularly clever and are, more often than not, downright confusing—perhaps partly due to the distraction of the film’s truly dreadful CGI. But seriously, I’ll give a dollar to anyone who can explain to me why a spaceship comes equipped with a pencil sharpener in its nose.
Usually, this is the point in the review where I would say the only redeeming quality of Meet Dave is the inclusion of Gabrielle Union as the ship’s cultural officer. And while her affable screen persona is the best thing about the movie, I’m not going down that path. After being so misused in so many lackluster movies—from Deliver Us from Eva (2003) to last year’s Daddy’s Little Girls and The Perfect Holiday—it’s hard to feel bad for her anymore. In fact, much like sitting through Meet Dave, it’s just a bit depressing. Rated PG for bawdy and suggestive humor, action and some language.