When one hears the name "Eddie Murphy," the first word to come to mind is "fatsuit."
But let's not be negative. Let's put away all memory of the pop-culture monstrosity that is the fatsuit comedy. Instead, let's look at the career-vindicating performance Murphy gave us in Dreamgirls. His portrayal of a charismatic soul singer proved that Murphy is a powerful and nuanced dramatic actor. Meet Dave could very well do the same for Murphy's reputation as a comedic actor.
Or it would if the movie had been any better.
Here's the film's sci-fi premise: Minature aliens bent on destroying the Earth arrive in New York inside a robotic facsimile of a normal-sized human. How's that for a comedic setup? It's like The Man Who Fell to Earth, but funnier. It's like The Brother From Another Planet meets Thumbelina meets Fantastic Voyage.
Inside the robot, the miniature aliens process every new Earth event with the seriousness of a starfleet crew. Murphy, in the dual role of Captain of a robot that looks like himself, does a decent Patrick Stewart parody. As the robot, Murphy channels the slapstick spirit of Buster Keaton.
We all know what happens next. Despite themselves, the aliens find themselves gently corrupted by the enticements of a winsome kid, a single MILF, and Earthling culture (read as "American culture").
It used to be that movies had Aliens internalize aspects of Americana (Earth Girls Are Easy, E.T., Starman, etc.) as a re-enactment of the myth of the melting pot. Nowadays it seems a little too shrill, as if America is crying out, demanding that the entire universe love us. In real life it seems that the whole world is suicidally enraged at our facile culture, so why would aliens like it?
Meet Dave manages a number of LOL moments, but every joke skirts the line between stupidly funny and painfully stupid. But even batting .400 it would still be the funniest flick of the season if not for the whorish scenes at the Times Square Mac Store and Old Navy. In the shameless product placement department it rivals Demolition Man's Taco Bell sequence. Murphy must have said "Welcome to Old Navy" twenty times, none of which were remotely funny.
But I'm the last person to condemn someone for a product tie-in. I can only hope that Old Navy shilled out enough cash for Meet Dave to break even, because ain't no one going to buy a ticket once they figure out there ain't no fatsuits.