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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Meet Dave (review)

Dave’s Not Here

I walked out of Meet Dave. I had spent my twelve bucks — because Fox did not screen Meet Dave for critics in advance of its opening, so I had to go to a multiplex, where this move drew one of the most obnoxious audiences I’ve ever seen a film with — and I invested about 50 minutes in the film, which was more than it deserved, and then I finally gave up and left. It wasn’t so much about the time I was wasting — I wasn’t pondering all the more productive stuff I could have been doing, like realphabetizing my DVDs or scrubbing the bathroom tiles. It was more a matter of self-preservation: I didn’t want my head to explode from an overload of idiocy, and that was about to happen, so I left.
This is a new thing for me, walking out of movies. I’ve only done it a couple of times before, and all those incidents have been in recent months, and I feel kinda like a new woman, or at least a new film critic. It’s very freeing to no longer feel like I’m going to break the tender wittle heart of some stupid movie if I insult it by storming out even if it insists on being the most asinine thing imaginable.

Cuz sometimes there comes a point in a dumb movie at which you have to say, Even if it gets better from here on, it still won’t have been worth enduring up till now. And there’s where I was with Dave, which was already severely trying my patience by the ten-minute mark with its insistence on being a first-contact/alien-trying-to-be-human/Star Trek-parody science fiction comedy for people who are extremely dimwitted and also have never before seen Galaxy Quest, Innerspace, or indeed any other movie, ever.

See, Eddie Murphy (Shrek the Third, The Haunted Mansion) is the captain of a spaceship from another planet, and the spaceship looks like Eddie Murphy, because the alien-people are all extremely tiny, and yet they need to find something they lost on Earth, so they need to walk around in an Eddie Murphy body. Or something. Eddie Murphy and his tiny alien crew are weirdly stiff and unemotional, except when they aren’t — one of his officers, played by Gabrielle Union (The Perfect Holiday, Running with Scissors), is of course secretly in love with Captain Eddie Murphy, and spends the movie sighing at him, which is like chalk on a board the first time, and rapidly wears out its welcome as a subplot after that. But the whole “everything’s like this, except when it isn’t” thing is an excellent characterization of the general awfulness of the entire movie: the aliens, walking around in their Eddie Murphy robot spaceship body, either understand humans and Earth culture, or they don’t, depending on which would be “funniest” (none of it is actually funny, natch).

So you know exactly what’s going to happen the instant the Eddie Murphy robot spaceship is presented with a bottle of ketchup, or a friendly housecat, or a hand proffered in greeting. (Alas, you also know what’s going to happen the moment the opportunity for bathroom humor presents itself.) So you know exactly how the Eddie Murphy robot spaceship will deal with the kid who needs some help standing up to bullies. So you know that the moment that the human-size Eddie Murphy is presented with an opportunity to woo human Elizabeth Banks (Definitely, Maybe, Fred Claus), Gabrielle Union’s lovestruck officer will know exactly what to do, even though the aliens don’t understand romance, except when they do. (Poor Banks is forced to perform a parody of human cluelessness as she develops a “relationship” with the Eddie Murphy robot spaceship. Or perhaps her performance is meant to be a misbegotten, would-be touching portrait of a mentally retarded woman making her own way in the world. It would be more generous to assume that, actually.)

So you know, God help you, that all of this is supposed to be as heartwarming as it is hilarious. The only thing that would have made me cry, actually, is if I’d known, while I was still in the theater, that one of the writers of this disaster is Mystery Science Theater 3000 vet Bill Corbett, who not only wrote for that show but also performed Crow T. Robot. I’d been wondering whom we could blame for this, who was desperately asking for a smack over this, who the hell thought this was a good idea, and know that I know, it makes me terribly sad. Mad, too, but mostly sad, in the same way it would be sad to see, say, someone you went to school with begging for money on a streetcorner, making a spectacle of himself in public.


MPAA: rated PG for bawdy and suggestive humor, action and some language

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb
  • Good for you for not sitting through idiocy and walking out.

  • Bill

    Is there a Certified Critic Card that They can revoke if you review a movie that you did not watch all the way through? I couldn’t care less and I applaud your 50 minute effort, but there’s definitely someone somewhere screaming about ethics in film criticism, right?

  • MaryAnn

    The only card is the respect of my readers. If you feel my ethics are damaged, you can take your business elsewhere.

    I will tell you, though, that I’ve seen other critics — ones far more famous and far better paid than I am — walk out of movies, too, and never let on that they did so.

    I’m not pretending to review the whole movie: I’m telling you I’m reviewing only that percentage of it that I saw. If you’d like to sit through the whole thing to prove me wrong, feel free.

  • PaulW

    I’m not concerned about her walking out of the movie theater. I’m concerned she wasted $8 on the popcorn too.

  • PaulW

    I’m also concerned about her bathtub grout. Sounds like it needs a good sanding.

  • Bill

    MAJ – Fair enough.

  • The late Joel Siegel famously walked out at the 40-minute mark of Clerks II. In his case, though, he said the following as he was leaving the theatre: “First movie I’ve ever walked out on in 30 fucking years.”

    I have no problem with a critic walking out on a particularly bad movie. But I would not expect any of them to ever go off on how bad the movie was while they were still in the theatre; that would be unprofessional and disrespectful to the other moviegoers.

    I’m sure MaryAnn does the right thing and just slinks out quietly.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m concerned she wasted $8 on the popcorn too.

    Oh god no. I did sneak a 20oz Diet Orange Sunkist into the theater, but I only paid regular NYC deli prices for that.

  • I’ve no problem with you leaving the movie early, as long as you do disclose that in the review. If you started walking out of, like, every other movie you went to see, well then I’d probably find myself a new critic. But I don’t think that’s likely to happen.

  • Bill

    “I’m sure MaryAnn does the right thing and just slinks out quietly.” – ClayJ

    I don’t doubt that she was quiet and courteous, but there’s a general tone in her reviews that suggests to me that she slung her bag over her shoulder and strutted a bit as if to say to her fellow moviegoers, “Follow me, people. We don’t need this shit.” :)

  • Mathias

    I love to know which other movies you walked ot of MJ. ;D

  • PaulW

    I think she tried to blow up the theater showing Tomb Raider… I do know she tortured a poor movie exec to ensure an awesome review.

  • Jigsy Q.

    Yeah, I was very saddened to hear about the Bill Corbett connection too. When I read about it I made the same sad/shocked noise I made when I heard George Carlin had died. It was almost as bad as finding out Trace Beaulieu was writing for America’s Funniest Home Videos. But hey, people gotta eat.

  • Pen Dragon

    “Like chalk on a board”…
    Nails on a chalkboard, maybe? Or is it a way of saying that Union’s performance is predictable and unspectacular?

  • FrankS

    You could see this one coming… the trailer for this movie was one of the most cringe inducing things I’ve ever seen. It made me want to walk out of the theater after watching the trailer.

  • Miguel

    It’s received mostly positive reviews here in Australia. I liked it and yes, I’ve seen many others like it before, much better ones, but there was something in Eddie Murphy’s performance that made it worthwile, as predictable as it may be.

  • MaSch

    Just a minor quibble: You wrote about the “general awfulness of the entire movie”. You do not know whether the film does not find a completly different kind of awfulness.

    A little OT: Somehow I always write here to criticise something. But overall, I love your site as one of the most interesting for film lovers. At least, for the film lover that is me.

  • Good for you. I went the other direction and just didn’t go.

    Someday I’ll watch the bad movies… but someday someone will pay me to.

  • MaryAnn

    I’ve no problem with you leaving the movie early, as long as you do disclose that in the review. If you started walking out of, like, every other movie you went to see, well then I’d probably find myself a new critic. But I don’t think that’s likely to happen.

    No, that’s not going to happen, and yes, I will always tell you when I did not see the entire film because I was afraid my head would explode.

    The movies I’ve walked out of:

    Daddy Day Camp
    Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins
    Harold
    Meet Dave

    And that’s it.

  • JoshDM

    DIET Sunkist? *vomits*

    Meet Dave? *vomits*

    Eddie Murphy should go back to standup, but he’ll probably do Bill Cosby bits. “Don’t drink the kindergarten cheese milk with all the wax bits in it ahh ahh ahh jello pudding coca cola.”

  • Joe

    Maybe, just maybe, that fellow who wrote it is planning on starting MST3K back up again, wait, here me out…and this movie is a stealth entry for the new MST3K’s!!! It all fits, it’s sci-fi, it’s cheesy, it sucks!!!

    Bill Corbett out of the doghouse!

    Anyone?

    aw, nuts.

  • Hasimir Fenring

    Knowing how badly scripts can be mangled in the transition to screen, I simply must believe, considering the excellent work he is doing over at RiffTrax, that Mr Corbett was possessed only by a minor demon in Jabootu’s army of zeroes that made this stinker. Especially considering that writing partner Kevin Murphy, in a recent riffing of the short ‘The Terrible Truth’, compared viewing Daddy Day Care itself to heroin withdrawal.

    Bill! I know it’ll help your career to have your name attached to an Eddie Murphy film, but why did you choose one without a suspiciously Scottish green ogre in it?

  • I noticed a little pattern here, MaryAnn… the movies you’ve walked out of:

    Daddy Day Camp: Cuba Gooding, Jr. (but Eddie Murphy was in the first movie, Daddy Day Care)
    Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins: Martin Lawrence et al
    Harold: Cuba Gooding, Jr. (and Spencer Breslin, who is reason enough to avoid a movie)
    Meet Dave: Eddie Murphy

    These films all have African-American (or black, if you want to be un-PC) men in the lead roles.

    Do you think this is a mere coincidence? Or is it possibly that too many talented black actors are taking roles in crummy movies because that’s what they are being offered? Or is it a reflection of the different tastes of what constitutes “good” between “black” audiences and “white” audiences?

  • JoshDM

    ClayJ, take a look at the crap fed to viewers from BET.

    Then go watch “Boondocks” on Cartoon Network.

    Then go re-evaluate your comment.

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence, Clayj. I do think that black audiences are so desperate to see black faces onscreen that they’ll sit through the most awful crap to do so. (I think this also applies to women, who are desperate the see female characters as something other than The Girlfriend or The Hero’s Prize.) And so then, of course, you have to especially blame people like Lawrence and Murphy and Gooding Jr for even agreeing to participate in making the crap.

    I do think, also, that at least Murphy and Lawrence probably have the financial wherewithal to either be producing their own quality material or to be accepting roles in independent films that don’t pay well but that are far better films. There comes a time for some actors when they no longer have to accept the crap offered to them just so they can work. And when they fail to do that, the only possible explanation is that they’re fine with the crap.

  • lis

    I liked the movie. I was surprsied at how much I enjoyed it. How come critics give family comedies such a hard time?

  • Josh, I’ve watched The Boondocks regularly, and I think it’s a great show. I love that Aaron McGruder isn’t afraid to point an accusatory finger at much of “black” culture and say, unrepentantly, “That sucks, and we can do better.” And yeah, BET is just godawful. I have to wonder what Robert “Bobcat” Johnson, the founder of BET, was thinking the whole time he was there… or was he just paying attention to his stock portfolio?

    At any rate, I just wanted to see if MaryAnn had noticed the pattern that when she walks out of a movie, it often has a black male lead. Murphy and Lawrence and Gooding all need to start being more selective about the movies they choose to appear in… unless, of course, they’re just paying attention to their stock portfolios.

  • MaryAnn

    Yup, that’s what it is: we critics just HATE “family comedies.” I mean, secretly we like them, but they revoke our membership in Hardasssed Critics United if we admit that publicly.

    Wait: You think this movie is a “family comedy”? Which part of it is most appropriate for “families,” do you think? Is it the bathroom scene, when Dave expels the hot dogs? Or is it just the general stupidity that somehow qualifies it as “family”? I mean, I’ve heard people say that your IQ drops 10 points with each kid you have… maybe that’s really true.

  • Anne-Kari

    Well, I have two children, and so far every so-called “family” movie that you’ve hated, MAJ, I too have found to be utterly inane.

    Which means, of course, that my IQ was WELL above genius before I had my kids.

  • Anne-Kari

    For the records, folks, here are some “family” movies that have real humor (not just asinine toilet jokes), good acting and interesting plots – not all for every age, not all 5-star movies, but all worthwhile compared to the standard crap we’ve been discussing in this thread:

    **recent/fairly recent:
    Kung-Fu Panda
    Kit Kitteredge
    Wall-E
    Spiderwick Chronicles

    **slightly older releases:
    The Incredibles
    Happy Feet
    The Lion King
    Wondrous Oblivion
    Toy Story 1 & 2
    Spirited Away

    **oldies but goodies:
    Who Framed Roger Rabbit
    The Secret Garden (1997)
    The Wizard of Oz

    **special category:
    Harry Potter and the (fill in for each movie)

    As for television, my 4 ½ year old daughter is NOT SPEAKING TO ME because I insist on fast-forward through the scarier parts of Dr. Who, a show she absolutely loves and deeply resents my editing thereof.

    Also, can I get some love for “Malcolm in the Middle” as a surprisingly funny and well written family sit-com? Dude. The theme song is by They Might Be Giants. It says something. Check it out if you haven’t yet.

    The point is: There’s a lot of great stuff out there than can legitimately be called family entertainment that doesn’t have to be garbage.

  • Tim

    Anne-Kari: I couldn’t agree with you more. There is plenty of “family-friendly” (Note: Family Comedy would suggest a comedy dealing explicitly with family issues) entertainment available that is at least decent. Unfortunately, there is a vast wasteland of stories written down to the lowest common denominator and sanitized of any real edge (leaving us with crude slapstick and scatological humor) because studios know that if they release these movies near holiday weekends, families looking for something to do will ultimately allow themselves to be shoe-horned into theaters for lack of anything better to do.

    MaryAnn: At first, I wanted to commend you on your decision to walk out of the movie, but then I thought about it. It must be nice to have a job where you don’t actually have to do things you don’t want to do, like watching a bad movie.

    Being a critic, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the film’s premise and trailer, as well as Eddie Murphy’s horrendous track record for the last DECADE. You knew what you were getting into when you bought your ticket. And even if you didn’t, the fact that the film wasn’t screened for the press should have been a dead giveaway. You made your bed. Next time be sure to lie in it.

    Let’s face it; your negative review isn’t really going to amount to anything. Anyone with half a brain knows what they’re getting with a movie like Meet Dave and I’m willing to bet the rest of the movie going public that can’t figure that little nugget out until it’s $12 dollars and 45 minutes too late doesn’t read your site. Picking on a movie that’s obviously this stupid and pointless is about as classy as making fun of the handicapped.

    I enthusiastically read your reviews because frankly, there ain’t anyone else quite like you out there and I enjoy your take on things. You’re the perfect compliment to Harry Knowles’s geek-fanboy love letter reviews. I see you walking out of a movie as a flagrant violation of your duties as a critic and a complete waste of an opportunity to write a column that is insightful and worthy of your site. There’s so much that can be said about the world around us as viewed through bad movies– especially by someone with your talent. Or, you can try to play it off as an act of empowerment by telling the world it was so bad you left.

    I look forward to reading future columns, but I think you really dropped the ball on this one. I used to get paid to track various types of data (violence, product placement, etc) in movies I’ve sat through hundreds of awful ones. Guess what? It doesn’t kill you. Next time, please respect your audience and suck it up and take one for the team.

    Also, and when in the entire scope of his career has Martin Lawrence ever produced “quality work?”

  • MaryAnn

    It must be nice to have a job where you don’t actually have to do things you don’t want to do, like watching a bad movie.

    You read my site regularly, and you think I make a habit of walking out of bad movies?

    I see you walking out of a movie as a flagrant violation of your duties as a critic

    I’m sorry you feel that way. Perhaps you’d feel better if you took the rarity with which I walk out of movies — a total of four, in more than ten years as a critic — as a measure of how irredeemable terrible this one is. Or at least how irredeemably terrible the first 50 minutes of this one is. Surely there’s some value in knowing that out of all the horrible shit I’ve sat through, this threatened my sanity enough that it drove me out.

  • amanohyo

    From the sound of the review, she took quite a lot for the team. It’s commendable that she was even willing to give the movie a chance (maybe because of its sci-fi premise?). Once again, she’s seen thousands of movies and only walked out on four. That is amazing.

    Anyway, no one besides MA really gets hurt when she walks out of a movie (I’m fairly sure she took public transportation to the theater, if you’re worried about energy), bad press is bad press. Now, if you were making a fuss about how many meals a food critic (or anyone) has refused to finish or doggie bag, I’d be more sympathetic. In that case, food and energy are actually being wasted.

    The only thing wasted in this case would have been MA’s brain if she had sat through the entire movie. Sure, it wouldn’t have killed her, but do you want to read reviews written by a person with liquified brain running out of her ears? That’s what the user comments on imdb are for.

  • MaryAnn

    I decided to see the movie mostly because it was the one I was officially Dreading, and I kinda feel like I need to back that up and either discover that yes, I was right to dread, or Hey, turns out it wasn’t so bad after all.

  • JoshDM

    Anne-Kari, I was GOING TO SAY that having a “They Might be Giants” song as your show’s theme is not a qualifier for quality, unless you’ve blacked out Chris Eliot’s “Get a Life” from your memory.

    BUT, I had to research that info, having gotten Chris Eliot and David Cross mixed up in my head, and I was reminded that that “Stand” is an R.E.M., not a TMBG, song.

    So, yeah. Maybe you’re right. :)

  • Anne-Kari

    JoshDM: I never did see “Get a Life”, but then again I kinda like REM’s “Stand”… anyhoo I don’t really think having a TMBG song is actually a qualifier for quality, merely a strong indicator, I guess?

    And as for the discussion of whether or not MAJ should have walked out of the theater – I strongly agree with those who noted (including MAJ herself) that she:
    1) Has only walked out of a sparse handful of the HUNDREDS of movies she’s reviewed
    2) Said right up front that she walked out and pinpointed exactly how long she sat there watching what she felt was unwatchable and
    3) It’s HER WEBSITE, entirely her creation. As a critic she is responsible for being honest (she was and always is) and giving her opinion in an entertaining way. She has always done just that.

    I’ve disagreed with a number of her reviews and have mouthed off about various things in these threads or comment lines or whatever the hell these things are called, but if MAJ says she just couldn’t stand to watch one more second of this movie, I respect that.

  • David C

    With regard to Bill Corbett, we can at least console ourselves with the very real possibility that his contributions were part of some actually good movie that doesn’t resemble this one in any way.

    With movies like this, it’s almost a given that they’re written-by-committee monstrosities, for which blame can be spread far and wide.

    Still, though, to think this thing gets made, while should-be classics like Peter Graves At The University of Minnesota, Earth vs. Soup and the epic Crow T. Robot’s Bram Stoker’s The Civil War go tragically unproduced….

  • Pedro

    is it just me, or is Eddie Murphy kinda scary?! I mean, if i go by a multiplex and i see a poster of a huge honkin’ Eddie Murphy head staring me straight in the eye,with an evil grin on his face, i’ll think “horror movie”, not “comedy”. i actually thought he’d be playing a bad guy, someone who was cruel to animals or little kids.

    having said that, someone made a pretty good kiddie list back there. so i thought i’d join in. here are some movies i remember loving as a kid, and some movies me and my younger sister watched a lot back then:

    Fievel goes West
    Ferngully: The Secret Rainforest
    Toy Story 1 + 2
    Tarzan
    Aladdin
    The Lion King
    Rescuers Down Under
    Pretty much all pre-millenium Disney movies
    All Dogs Go To Heaven
    Land Before Time episode whatever (1 is still the best by far, but they keep coming out!)
    Space Jam

    And some more recent ones:

    Shrek 1 + 2
    Alvin and The Chipmunks
    Kung-Fu Panda

    Nowadays, i go browse kiddie movie sections, and what do i see? Barbie. Bratz. Dora the Explorer. Beyblade. Noddy. Shit. Crap. It’s sad, really…

    DISCLAIMER: Before somebody shoots me, i think the Noddy books (by Enid Blyton) are great. The cartoon is VERY annoying, though.

  • I think you have all the right in the world to walk out of a movie. People seem to think that just because you’re a critic, you’re some kind of public prostitue, that has to tend to every whim of retarded movie-goers and money-hungry lazy movie studios.
    Why? You don’t need to sit there forever to realize it’s crap. You don’t have to listen to the whole Celine Dion record to know it’s shit. You actually gave it an honest try, you went and sat there for almost an hour, watching “…Dave”??? People, what else do you expect from this woman???
    Whoever financed this project should be dragged out in the street and shot. “Boss, a great idea: Eddie Murphy is an alien, inside an Eddie Murphy robot…”, and some rich-fat cat ignorant nodding and going, “yes… I see it… We’ll make a bundle”.
    The public is not retarded. The critics are not retarded. I hope you lose all your money on this movie and wind up flipping burgers in rodeo drive.
    Of course, they’ll just blame downloading, not their questionable choices in production, to account for this horrible, stupid, un-orignal idea going down the drain.
    A salute for your honesty and don’t take crap from idiots, MAJ… Your job isn’t to sit there and be tortured by studio execs à la Clockwork Orange.
    Great review.

  • Anne-Kari

    MAJ- just a side question on the title you gave this review: were you referencing the restaurant by that name?

  • MaryAnn

    There’s a restaurant called Dave’s Not Here?

    I was referencing the Cheech and Chong comedy routine (which is about idiot stoners).

    you’re some kind of public prostitue,

    I’m like the temple whore! That was quite a respected position in ancient cultures.

  • Anne-Kari

    Yep, Dave’s Not Here is the name of a restaurant in Santa Fe, NM. A number of friends of mine went to St. John’s and several worked at Dave’s Not Here – one local legend is that the original Dave skipped town with debts owed and the employees who were then running the place started answering the phone with “Dave’s not here!” when creditors wouldn’t stop calling. The name stuck.

  • Anne-Kari

    Oh, and “Temple whore”? The term is Companion — Ms. Serra, if you’re nasty ;)

  • MaryAnn

    I’ve never been to either Santa Fe or St. John’s, and I’m always positive I’ve never eaten in a place called Dave’s Not Here.

  • Anne-Kari

    MAJ:
    As always:
    Hee!

  • soroso

    Pedro:

    It’s “An American Tail: Fievel Goes West” and “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest”.

    The first An American Tail movie is also great, a bit darker though. And Ferngully is a really good movie to watch. Having re-watched All Dogs go to Heaven recently as I remember liking it as a kid, I can understand why my mom thought it was crap. It is crap.

    I’ve walked out of movies too (2 thus far) and so I cannot say anything about someone who does the same. I’m sure it was deserved. But as bad as this one is I would still consider that Beverly Hills Chihuahua movie to be more of a dread/enemy.

  • Netbug009

    What a shame. It was a kinda neat concept and it could have been funny, but I guess it’s another lame film.

    That’s find though. If I go see another film this summer (I’ve already been 4 times, which is crazy a lot for me. All of them were WALL-E too) I’m more interested in Journey to the Center of the Earth anyway.

  • “Eddie Murphy and his tiny alien crew are weirdly stiff and unemotional, except when they aren’t — ”

    Maybe they forgot to pack enough Prozium for everyone’s daily intervals.

    -bogdana on rt

  • pedro

    soroso:

    i knew the name of the movie, i just shortened it ;). thanks for the heads up though.

    i do like the first american tail, but having been born in 1985, i didn’t experience it first hand, only on kiddie matinee re-screenings. i do remember dragging my dad to the second installmente at about age seven, though ;)

    oh, and i forgot to mention Finding Nemo (one of my fav’s!) and Ratatouille (a pleasant, grown-up surprise).

  • Why Does Eddie Murphy do all these corny family comedies that don’t reflect his comedic talent?
    He should do a PG-13.

  • megan

    i dont know why every body says it is not a good movie i thought i looked like the movie would be good.and the movie is for the whole familey so it should be good.i llike it.

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