July 17, 2008

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Meet Dave (PG)
Eddie Murphy is both an awkward, white-suit-wearing robot and an initially emotion-free spaceship captain in Meet Dave, a silly but frequently goofily entertaining comedy.

Dave (Eddie Murphy) wears a sparkling white three-piece suit as he walks around Manhattan trying to coordinate his arm-and-leg movements while looking for an extremely important orb. And by “looking for,” I mean using a variety of sensor equipment embedded inside Dave because “he” is not in fact a he but an it, a spaceship in which an entire crew of tiny astronauts has traveled from the planet of Nil to planet Earth. The voyage was made in search of the orb, which was sent to Earth to drain the oceans and harvest their salt to power the planet. The toy-army-man-sized Captain (also Murphy) and the equally miniscule crew — including the rules-obsessed No. 2 (Ed Helms) and the occasionally dreamy-eyed No. 3 (Gabrielle Union) — don’t have a problem with the collateral damage that is the destruction of Earth and its humans because they view us as lumbering giants with mood swings, a primitive race hardly worth saving. Thusly, their mission is simple: find the orb, place orb in ocean, go home heroes.

Except that in the search for the orb, the crew, or rather their combined identity which is the human-seeming robot Dave, meets Gina (Elizabeth Banks), a single mom raising her sweet but shy son Josh (Austyn Lind Meyers). “Dave,” the voice and decisions of whom are supplied by the Captain, becomes friends with Gina and with Josh, who suspects Dave’s extraordinary origins. As with the other members of his crew, Captain finds himself feeling curiosity about these humans and just feeling emotions in general. From the security officer (Pat Kilbane) who gets a taste of Broadway and wants to sparkle to the crewmembers who discover the joys of dancing and mojitos, these normally Vulcan-like ant-sized humanoids find that Earth is causing some surprising emotions to bubble into their consciousness.

Rather than tell you what is wrong with this movie (frequently limp humor, moments of sitcomy corniness, general mediocre-level acting, YouTube-video-level green screen and CGI effects), let me shock you by telling you what is right with this movie. First of all it is far from the worst (Norbit) Eddie Murphy movie and better even than the worst comedy of this summer (The Love Guru). While Murphy hams it up plenty for scenes of robot goofiness, it’s basically a pleasant lunch meat kind of ham, not a metallic-tasting canned ham. He hams enough and then stops. Likewise, we get moments of “be yourself” (to the child) or “we should not be afraid of emotions” (between Nillions) but while these moments mimic the tone of the emotional third-act parent-kid chat of a sitcom they also, thankfully, mimic a sitcom in their brevity. As with, say, giving blood for a blood test, you feel a little pain and you’ll feel the urge to look away but before you know it, it’s over with. While Union, Helms and Kilbane are pushed solidly in the supporting category, even they have scenes with genuine humor. Maybe not laugh-out-loud humor, but certainly chuckle-silently-in-your-head humor.

Meet Dave is much less unpleasant than you think it will be. It’s not painful to sit through. It’s basically inoffensive and, though silly, silly in a generally entertaining way. It’s a movie the whole family can watch together and not hate. None of these quotes will end up on the movie poster but kudos to the movie for not being nearly as bad as it could have been. C+

Rated PG for bawdy and suggestive humor, action and some language. Directed by Brian Robbins and written by Rob Greenberg and Bill Corbett, Meet Dave is an hour and a half long and is distributed in wide release by 20th Century Fox Distribution.