Meet Dave

Director    Brian Robbins
Starring    Eddie Murphy, Elizabeth Banks, Ed Helms, Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart
Release    11 JUL (US) 18 JUL (UK)    Certificate PG
2 stars


27th July 2008

As sickening as it may sound, Eddie Murphy is officially the most successful movie star ever. With almost $3.5bn of box-office bounty to his name, Murphy tops cinema's all-time biggest earners league. How? A steady mixture of his raucous '80s output, no-holds barred stand-up routines and family friendly films of the '90s and beyond. But such success comes at a price: the more money Murphy's movies make, the less funny they become. His career reached a zenith last year with the appalling Norbit, a movie which bagged him a Golden Raspberry and allegedly cost him an Oscar for his role in Dreamgirls. Surely then, there can't be much hope for Meet Dave, which reunites Murphy with Norbit director Brian Robbins and sees him once again playing multiple roles. Don't be surprised if it makes more money than God.

The plot is typically low-rent Murphy fare. A crew of diminutive humanoid aliens come to Earth with the aim of draining the seas to save their home planet. And how do they get here? In a spaceship called Dave that looks suspiciously like Eddie Murphy. Their mission is to find an orb-like rock that fell to Earth three months earlier, retrieve it, and chuck it in the Hudson River. But during their time on our planet, the crew - who reside in Murphy's head a la Beano mainstays The Numbskulls and are captained by a smaller Eddie Murphy - become fascinated with the human way of life. They eat hotdogs, dance with Elizabeth Banks, shop at Apple stores, drink mojitos and quickly realise that Earth is actually a pretty cool place to be.

Despite playing two characters, Murphy struggles to make either of them entertaining throughout. Sure, there's some comedy mileage in the concept to begin with; watching a robotic Murphy navigating the streets of NYC, mimicking passers-by and kicking cats does raise the odd chuckle here and there. But the joke quickly wears thin and you'll soon become bored with Meet Dave's weary 'alien in New York' shtick. Mini-Murphy is hardly any better, Eddie failing to imbue the character with his own sense of humour, even when he loosens up on the mission and decides to have some fun. It's sad to see a genuinely funny guy so obviously phoning it in.

The supporting cast do offer some respite from Murphy's tired antics. Ed Helms, best known from The US Office, plays Murphy's second-in-command with the same (lack of) charm as Andy Bernard, scoring more laughs than the lead. Scary Movie comedian Kevin Hart doesn't have much to do other than hurl abuse and get drunk on Dave's mojitos, but he earns a few giggles by milking the 'little man' concept and swimming around in a cup of coffee (he gets the movie's best line, too).

Is Meet Dave Eddie Murphy's worst film? No, that delightful accolade still belongs to Norbit for the moment. But it is an illustration of the below-par films that Murphy has become synonymous with - this doesn't represent anything close to a challenge for a comedian who has been coasting for nigh on a decade now. Murphy's last hope for critical kudos to match his commercial success could be Beverly Hills Cop 4, but with PG-13 rumours and Brett Ratner behind the camera, don't hold your breath. It's looking more and more likely that Murphy will end his days in film with bottom-of-the-barrel comedies like this and an endless line in Shrek sequels. Shame. Rob

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