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.

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