Eddie Murphy is back in yet another comedy in which he plays multiple roles. But at least there's nary a fat suit to be seen.
Murphy portrays Dave, a stranger in New York City determined to learn the ways of its citizens and blend in. But blending in is tough when you're sporting a dazzlingly white, circa 1978 suit ... and when your every movement is as stiff as a robot's.
That's because Dave's disco-era exterior cloaks a secret: "Dave" isn't a person at all, but a starship carrying a crew of miniature human-like people from the planet Nil. Their ship has been crafted in the image of its captain (Murphy's other role). Their mission? To save their dying planet by finding a small orb previously dispatched to Earth to suck our oceans dry.
The orb, it turns out, landed in the hands of a young boy named Josh. And it's not long before Dave meets him, courtesy of Josh's mother, Gina—after she plows into Dave in her car. As Dave awkwardly interacts with Gina and Josh, the Spock-like race inside "him" struggles to make sense of the humans' emotions. In the process, the tiny beings begin to awaken emotionally and to ponder whether Earth's people really deserve total destruction.
Not everyone on the ship, of course, is so smitten with humanity. Even as Dave's friendship with Gina and Josh deepens, the ship's second in command, known only as No. 2, plots a mutiny. Add in a bully who steals the orb from Josh, an X-Files-loving Keystone Cop hot on Dave's trail and a growing affection between the captain and the ship's cultural officer, No. 3, and it's a recipe for comedic chaos.
Several positive themes emerge from Meet Dave. Friendship and heroism are chief among them. Early on, Gina tells Dave that she lost her husband, a soldier. He was a war hero whose actions saved many, she says. Josh idolizes his deceased dad. But he sees himself as a misfit who's anything but heroic. Dave counters, "You are not small. You are a giant" and says, "The most powerful force in all the universe often comes from the smallest star." Josh takes those words to heart, and his initiative plays a key role in saving Dave. By film's end, Dave exclaims, "All hail Josh the hero!" and tells his young friend that he has demonstrated the "true meaning of friendship and courage."
When Nil's petite people arrive, they believe humans are a brutal race unworthy of survival. That idea is temporarily reinforced when Dave sees multiple magazines with doom-and-gloom cover stories like "Our Planet Has Cancer" and "Decade of Aggression." But most of the crew eventually reconsiders and decides that humanity is worth saving. Gina's and Josh's love and empathy for each other and for Dave is part of that equation. Another significant realization happens when Dave sits next to a homeless man in Times Square, and the man shares his blanket with him. The captain comments, "This man has nothing, yet he offers to share his sole source of warmth. This is a more complex species than we imagined."
No. 2 believes embracing one's emotions is anarchy, but the captain and No. 3 do just that in their relationship with each other and get teary-eyed watching It's a Wonderful Life. And the captain risks his life to save No. 3 when they find themselves temporarily outside the protective confines of the ship. The captain eventually tells No. 3 that she is "kind, intelligent and beautiful. Without you, I would be nothing."
A police officer named Dooley is conscientious and hardworking even though his older, supposedly more experienced partner is neither.
There's an interjection of "Thank God!" Dave describes an Apple retail store as a "shrine to technology."
Gina's tops usually show a bit of cleavage. And the female crew members aboard starship Dave wear very tight, form-fitting, Star Trek-style uniforms.
Gina, Josh and Dave go to a Cuban restaurant/dance club, where Gina tries to teach Dave how to salsa. There's suggestive dancing, and some dancers aren't wearing much—about what you'd expect to see on ABC's Dancing With the Stars these days. While trying to learn the dance, the captain issues orders like, "More hips, more hips" and, "Put your accoutrements right up against her."
As the crew's emotions emerge, a man looks at a well-endowed woman and says, "Dang!" Crewman No. 4 is portrayed as a homosexual stereotype: He lisps, acts effeminately, styles a female crew member's hair, wears a flamboyant outfit and renames himself Johnny Dazzle. Visuals and a comment from Gina ("No straight man is that good a dancer") drive home the "point" that homosexuality is part and parcel with fluid dance skills.
A police officer laments that having to deal with "frat punks getting drunk" made him miss his "morning roll in the hay with Tracy." (It's not clear whether she's a wife or girlfriend.) There's a veiled reference to oral sex that plays off the word "blow." Gina's posterior takes a verbal jab.
We see couples kiss on several occasions.
Easily the most violent moment in Meet Dave is when he walks into a busy street and gets absolutely clocked by Gina's speeding car. The camera focuses on Dave as she rams into him, after which he's hurled perhaps 50 feet into the air and then down onto the concrete. It's played for humor, but it's still surprisingly shocking. One of Dave's feet ends up at an unnatural angle after the impact.
The movie's opening shows Dave (as an indistinguishable meteorite) crashing into Liberty Island. In a convenience store hold up, Dave tosses one assailant into a wall and crushes the gun of another. Dave gets "recharged" twice, once by a defibrillator and once by a police taser. He's also knocked down by an errant baseball and dramatically yanked—with a metallic thunk—onto the side of an MRI machine. When several crew members drunkenly crawl out of Dave's ear while he's salsa dancing, the captain sees them and "eats" them by shoving them back into the ship via Dave's mouth.
After No. 2's brief takeover, Dave blasts a hole in a jail cell wall. Policemen open fire as he walks out, but energy shields protect him. Also during the mutiny, there is some mild scuffling and crew members are held at gunpoint. The captain and No. 3 then get ejected from Dave's nostrils. On the streets of New York, they get knocked over by a leaf blower, encounter a large dog, get run over by a truck (its tread is wider and deeper than they are), and end up oscillating on a city bus's windshield wiper.
Drug and Alcohol Content
At the dance club, Dave and Gina have Mojitos, a Cuban cocktail. The crew members stationed in Dave's mouth are practically drowned by the drink, and get quite drunk as a result. Young Josh has a "virgin" (non-alcoholic) Mojito. As the crew tries to repair the damage caused by Gina's car in an alley behind her apartment, Josh sees the slumped-over Dave and says, "Mom, there's another drunk guy in the alley."
Other Negative Elements
Several scenes revolve around bathroom humor. One involves Dave extruding money and coins from a printer located in his backside. We see him making scrunched-up faces as dollar bills and coins fall to the ground behind him. After Dave gobbles down 85 hot dogs in a contest, a crew member warns that the ship needs to "dispose of the processed meat tubes," which Dave promptly does in a bathroom stall. (We hear his activities.) Elsewhere, the top of an engineer's backside is visible as he bends over to repair damage to the ship. He makes a lame joke about passing gas. No. 2 takes an even lamer stab at turning his own name into a bodily function double entendre. A dog urinates on the captain and No. 3.
When Dave finds the young tough who's stolen the orb from Josh, he turns him upside down and shakes him while the boy complains, "You're giving me a wedgie." Dave rephrases that statement, saying that the boy's "undergarments are lodged cuttingly deep in [his] rectum."
Officer Dooley's cynical, lazy police partner tells him, "Do me a favor: Act like a cop, and stop caring." We see a video clip of Meatloaf's song "Bat Out of Hell."
In 2007, Eddie Murphy arguably experienced the highest and lowest points of his career. His role in Dreamgirls the previous year garnered his first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Even as buzz began to build that Murphy could be a serious contender, however, backlash came from those who said, "Best Supporting Actor? Take a look at Norbit!" Indeed, whatever hope Murphy may have had for an Oscar statuette was quite possibly sunk by the three roles he played in Norbit, which, in my Plugged In Online review, I described as a "brutally mean-spirited" film full of "racist and sexist gibes."
So what does that have to do with Meet Dave? Quite a bit, I think. Meet Dave is not without its problem areas, including one character who's loaded down with every homosexual stereotype in the book and more than a few jokes that emerge from the bathroom stall. But when you consider that Murphy again teamed up with Norbit's director, Brian Robbins, Meet Dave represents a step in the right direction.
Profanity is kept to a minimum. Budding romance doesn't lead to the bedroom or the kind of truly odious sex jokes that permeated Norbit's script. And there's a genuine sweetness to this film's characters and its messages about friendship and heroism that is utterly—and I mean utterly—lacking in Murphy and Robbins' last cooperative effort. I wonder, then, if perhaps the scathing criticism Murphy received for Norbit has something to do with this change in direction.
Whatever the answer to that question, Meet Dave generally eschews edginess while borrowing some of the comedic elements that made Men in Black and Galaxy Quest big hits. It's hardly perfect, nor is it great art. But neither is it a shameful entry that will forever mar our memories of Eddie Murphy.