Skip to main content

Excuse me, my colon is impacted.


Meet Dave
(2008)

Eddie Murphy’s not had a great deal of success of later, Oscar nomination for Dreamgirls aside (six years ago now!) The donkeywork on Shrek has dried up and the once sure things of family remakes (Nutty Professor, Dr. Doolittle) have given way a string of flops (this, Imagine That, A Thousand Words). Meet Dave was a write-off before it was even released, and its quality seemed to be determined by its box office. What I’m saying is, Meet Dave isn’t that bad.

Now, Norbit. That’s a truly dreadful film. Which made a ton of money. Besides its star, the two have a director in common. One Brian Robbins. He’s become something of a go-to guy for Murphy, and his career takes in acting, writing, directing and producing. If only he was exceptional at just one of these. Pushing oneself doesn’t seem to be high on the agenda with comedy actors, however. Creating a comfortable working environment is paramount; quality comes a distant second. Why else would Adam Sandler make every movie with auteur Dennis Dugan? Sandler’s still having (increasingly less substantial) hits. Murphy may need rethink his devotion to Robbins given this and last years A Thousand Words. That said, Robbins work here is largely competent; what you want, however, is someone who will run with the craziness of the concept.

To be frank, it’s surprising that a comedy with this premise was greenlit in the first place. So much is ripe for ruin with the execution that’s its astonishing the result is quite watchable. An Eddie Murphy-shaped spaceship (original film title, Starship Dave) lands in New York, the miniature occupants on a mission to locate an orb that will extract the planet’s sea salt (and bring destruction to the Earth). Along the way the spaceship (“Dave Ming Cheng”) meets a single mom (Elizabeth Banks, as ever a good sport) and son (Austin Myers), while the crew learn something about being human.

Before it sinks up to its neck in schmaltzy plot twists in the last twenty minutes, Dave does a pleasant enough job hitting some very obvious targets. First up, it’s the opportunity for Murphy to engage in protracted bouts of physical comedy as the difficult-to-control starship. Whether its crazy walking, talking, imitation of those he encounters (his grinning reactions to Marc Blucas are especially mirthful) or excessive consumption of hotdogs (“Excuse me, my colon is impacted”), Murphy’s on fine form. There’s little opportunity for the actor to engage in traditional Eddie riffing, but he essays both his characters charmingly. His other role is the straight-laced starship Captain (one wonders if the vague Star Trek vibe attracted Murphy; after all, he was once mooted to appear in The Voyage Home), gradually learning to engage emotionally (they’re all a bunch of Vulcans, basically) and pucker up with Gabrielle Union.

The obstacles to fulfilling their mission are sometimes well integrated (the kid bullying Myers), sometimes not (Scott Caan’s alien-obsessed cop). Ed Helms is initially good fun as No.2, increasingly losing it, and Pat Kilbane’s amusing as a Frankie Goes to Hollywood look-a-like No.4, but ultimately the requirements for a dramatic resolution and cloying moralising supplant the more anarchic and observational impulses .

Meet Dave must have at least has one high profile fan in Doctor Who executive producer Steven Moffat, whose 2011 episode Let’s Kill Hitler appears to be a direct (and inferior) rip-off. Presumably Moffat thought plundering its premise wouldn’t matter as no one saw the film.

***  

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

If a rat were to walk in here right now as I'm talking, would you treat it to a saucer of your delicious milk?

Inglourious Basterds (2009)
(SPOILERS) His staunchest fans would doubtless claim Tarantino has never taken a wrong step, but for me, his post-Pulp Fiction output had been either not quite as satisfying (Jackie Brown), empty spectacle (the Kill Bills) or wretched (Death Proof). It wasn’t until Inglourious Basterds that he recovered his mojo, revelling in an alternate World War II where Adolf didn’t just lose but also got machine gunned to death in a movie theatre showing a warmly received Goebbels-produced propaganda film. It may not be his masterpiece – as Aldo Raines refers to the swastika engraved on “Jew hunter” Hans Landa’s forehead, and as Tarantino actually saw the potential of his script – but it’s brimming with ideas and energy.

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

Hey, everybody. The bellboy's here.

Four Rooms (1995)
(SPOILERS) I had an idea that I’d only seen part of Four Rooms previously, and having now definitively watched the entire thing, I can see where that notion sprang from. It’s a picture that actively encourages you to think it never existed. Much of it isn’t even actively terrible – although, at the same time, it couldn’t be labelled remotely good– but it’s so utterly lethargic, so lacking in the energy, enthusiasm and inventiveness that characterises these filmmakers at their best – and yes, I’m including Rodriguez, although it’s a very limited corner for him – that it’s very easy to banish the entire misbegotten enterprise from your mind.

Just because you are a character doesn't mean that you have character.

Pulp Fiction (1994)
(SPOILERS) From a UK perspective, Pulp Fiction’s success seemed like a fait accompli; Reservoir Dogs had gone beyond the mere cult item it was Stateside and impacted mainstream culture itself (hard to believe now that it was once banned on home video); it was a case of Tarantino filling a gap in the market no one knew was there until he drew attention to it (and which quickly became over-saturated with pale imitators subsequently). Where his debut was a grower, Pulp Fiction hit the ground running, an instant critical and commercial success (it won the Palme d’Or four months before its release), only made cooler by being robbed of the Best Picture Oscar by Forrest Gump. And unlike some famously-cited should-have-beens, Tarantino’s masterpiece really did deserve it.

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

Our very strength incites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict... breeds catastrophe.

The MCU Ranked Worst to Best

The adversary oft comes in the shape of a he-goat.

The Witch (2015)
(SPOILERS) I’m not the biggest of horror buffs, so Stephen King commenting that The Witchscared the hell out of me” might have given me pause for what was in store. Fortunately, he’s the same author extraordinaire who referred to Crimson Peak as “just fucking terrifying” (it isn’t). That, and that general reactions to Robert Eggers’ film have fluctuated across the scale, from the King-type response on one end of the spectrum to accounts of unrelieved boredom on the other. The latter response may also contextualise the former, depending on just what King is referring to, because what’s scary about The Witch isn’t, for the most part, scary in the classically understood horror sense. It’s scary in the way The Wicker Man is scary, existentially gnawing away at one through judicious martialling of atmosphere, setting and theme.


Indeed, this is far more impressive a work than Ben Wheatley’s Kill List, which had hitherto been compared to The Wicker Man, succeeding admirably …

I enjoy various physical pursuits.

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
I had no avid desire to see Sam Taylor Johnson’s adaptation of E L Gray’s novel, but I was curious about it – in the same way I am any big hit such as a Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There’s no point pretending to have an opinion on something you haven’t seen. I haven’t read the novel, nor likely will I, but more power to Gray for getting her Twilight fanfic repurposed as erotic fiction; seriously, I don’t get the naysaying there (her prose may be a different matter, but as I say, I haven’t read it). Fifty Shades of Grey the movie? Well, its handsomely made, but it’s exceptionally dull.

I don’t think I’m probably that different to Fifty Shades devotees on that score; it seems to have been greeted generally with an “It was okay, but…” from those I know who have read the novels. My impression generally was of a wish-fulfilment fantasy a la Pretty Woman but with added (very coy) S&M. Well-performed with lip biting zeal by Dakota Johnson (appea…