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 was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

You're not only wrong. You're wrong at the top of your voice.

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
I’ve seen comments suggesting that John Sturges’ thriller hasn’t aged well, which I find rather mystifying. Sure, some of the characterisations border on the cardboard, but the director imbues the story with a taut, economical backbone. 

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…

It looks like we’ve got another schizoid embolism!

Total Recall (1990)
(SPOILERS) Paul Verhoeven offered his post-mortem on the failures of the remakes of Total Recall (2012) and Robocop (2013) when he suggested “They take these absurd stories and make them too serious”. There may be something in this, but I suspect the kernel of their issues is simply filmmakers without either the smarts or vision, or both, to make something distinctive from the material. No one would have suggested the problem with David Cronenberg’s prospective Total Recall was over-seriousness, yet his version would have been far from a quip-heavy Raiders of the Lost Ark Go to Mars (as he attributes screenwriter Ron Shusset’s take on the material). Indeed, I’d go as far as saying not only the star, but also the director of Total Recall (1990) were miscast, making it something of a miracle it works to the extent it does.

How do you like that – Cuddles knew all the time!

The Pleasure Garden (1925)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s first credit as director, and his account of the production difficulties, as related to Francois Truffaut, is by and large more pleasurable than The Pleasure Garden itself. The Italian location shoot in involved the confiscation of undeclared film stock, having to recast a key role and borrowing money from the star when Hitch ran out of the stuff.

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.

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…

Haven’t you ever heard of the healing power of laughter?

Batman (1989)
(SPOILERS) There’s Jaws, there’s Star Wars, and then there’s Batman in terms of defining the modern blockbuster. Jaws’ success was so profound, it changed the way movies were made and marketed. Batman’s marketing was so profound, it changed the way tentpoles would be perceived: as cash cows. Disney tried to reproduce the effect the following year with Dick Tracy, to markedly less enthusiastic response. None of this places Batman in the company of Jaws as a classic movie sold well, far from it. It just so happened to hit the spot. As Tim Burton put it, it was “more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie”. It’s difficult to disagree with his verdict that the finished product (for that is what it is) is “mainly boring”.

Now, of course, the Burton bat has been usurped by the Nolan incarnation (and soon the Snyder). They have some things in common. Both take the character seriously and favour a sombre tone, which was much more of shock to the system when Burton did it (even…

My dear, sweet brother Numsie!

The Golden Child (1986)
Post-Beverly Hills Cop, Eddie Murphy could have filmed himself washing the dishes and it would have been a huge hit. Which might not have been a bad idea, since he chose to make this misconceived stinker.

Anything can happen in Little Storping. Anything at all.

The Avengers 2.22: Murdersville
Brian Clemens' witty take on village life gone bad is one of the highlights of the fifth season. Inspired by Bad Day at Black Rock, one wonders how much Murdersville's premise of unsettling impulses lurking beneath an idyllic surface were set to influence both Straw Dogs and The Wicker Mana few years later (one could also suggest it premeditates the brand of backwoods horrors soon to be found in American cinema from the likes of Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper).