There was an old Calvin and Hobbes strip in which Calvin imagines his body as a giant, manned robot, with lots of little, microscopic Calvins inside its giant control room, seeing to it that all of Calvin's bodily systems and physical actions are running smoothly. It was a fun clever with plenty of obvious comedic potential, and cartoonist Bill Watterson must have realized this, because he went on to make a couple more of them. And so readers were treated to scenes of the little Calvins trying to maintain structural integrity as the giant Calvin-bot falls down a flight of stairs, selecting the film reels to be played in Calvin's dreams, and so on.

Eddie Murphy as Dave Ming Chang

Eddie Murphy as Dave Ming Chang

That's more or less the idea behind Meet Dave, the latest starring vehicle for Eddie Murphy, and, if nothing else, the movie offers proof enough that it really is a good idea—one that really shines in the hands of a talented performer (Murphy) and generally withstands the manhandling it receives from a less-than-inspired script.

Murphy, of course, is both the giant robot—or, in this case, space vessel—that, by all outward appearances, seems human, but is in fact crewed by a small team of humanoid space aliens; Murphy also plays the captain of the ship. You can probably guess what happens: The crew and their Murphy-bot land on Earth in search of a precious orb—what the orb does isn't really the point—and must learn to maneuver their ship in such a way as to make it blend in with the rest of the humans. In the process, they adopt the name Dave for the robot, and Dave befriends an Earth woman, becomes romantically involved with her in a rather vague and harmless way, imparts some valuable life lessons to her son, has his identity compromised, and learns some life lessons of his own from those rascally Earthlings.

Dave checks out his little alter ego

Dave checks out his little alter ego

In other words, don't go to this movie looking for novelty. If anything in Meet Dave surprises you, then you've probably never seen a family movie before. Instead, go to the movie for Murphy, whose talents really shine in this role—at least compared to the kinds of films he's been making lately (Dreamgirls notwithstanding). It's been years since Murphy had a starring role that was deserving of his talents, and if Meet Dave is still a pretty far cry from his glory days in the 1980s and early 90s, it's at least better than the vulgar schlock of Norbit and forgettable family films like The Haunted Mansion. Dave is certainly closer to the latter category insofar as it's mostly very family-friendly, only this time, Murphy also gets to be funny. The role of Dave the Robot gives him the opportunity to ham it up with silly, Jim Carrey-esque facial contortions and physical comedy, while his turn as Dave the Captain allows him to dip into some buffoonish melodrama. It's as silly as anything he's ever done, but that's what makes it fun—Murphy is goofing around and playing the clown, without resorting to the offensive stereotypes and vulgar jokes of Norbit, to say nothing of the ridiculous makeup.

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A spaceship, no, it's a man, no, it's … whatever

A spaceship, no, it's a man, no, it's … whatever

It's worth seeing for Murphy's silliness, presuming one can withstand a script that's full of failed opportunities. As Calvin showed us, this is a funny premise. At times, the movie seizes the opportunity and gets in some good gags—the scene in which Dave first identifies himself to Gina (Elizabeth Banks) provides a humorous fake-out (let's just say that Dave isn't the first name he offers her), and even some of the other actors are given time to shine. Ed Helms (The Office) plays the second-in-command on the ship, and his over-the-top seriousness is winning. But just as often as it succeeds, the script settles for family-movie clichés, like the dumb physical comedy of Dave dealing with a schoolyard bully, the fortune-cookie life lessons he imparts to young Josh (Austin Lynd Myers). The subplot of two cops trying to figure out how a big crater appeared on Liberty Island is completely devoid of humor, though it is mercifully minor in the scheme of the film, and Gabrielle Union, playing one of the ship's crew members, is grating and shrill.

Still, the film is cute enough. It hardly sets a new standard for family films, or for Eddie Murphy, but his performance and the inherently clever premise are enough to provide plenty of big, crowd-pleasing laughs. And since the film is mostly family friendly (see the "Family Corner" below for a couple of minor infractions), it's a pleasant, diverting, occasionally inspired choice for families who've already seen WALL*E a couple of times.

>Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. The crew members are unfamiliar with the "feeling of love." In fact, love is called a "feeling" on more than one occasion. Is love really a feeling? Or is there something more to it?
  2. What view of humanity does the film seem to take? What are the positive aspects of humanity that it portrays? Negative?
  3. Is the captain of the ship an honorable and selfless man? Is he a good leader? Why or why not?
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The Family Corner

For parents to consider

Meet Dave is rated PG for a few moments of inappropriate humor. One character—named Lieutenant Buttocks—shows a bit too much of his bottom thanks to his low-riding pants, and another character is a rather flamboyant homosexual. There's one crude joke involving a urinating dog, a passing reference to intoxication, and a couple of scenes in which Dave expels items (coins, uneaten food) from his rear end, making faces that suggest he's rather painfully expelling, um, something else.

What other Christian critics are saying:

Meet Dave
Our Rating
2 Stars - Fair
Average Rating
(1 user ratings)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG (for bawdy and suggestive humor, action and some language)
Directed By
Brian Robbins
Run Time
1 hour 30 minutes
Eddie Murphy, Elizabeth Banks, Gabrielle Union
Theatre Release
July 11, 2008 by Twentieth Century Fox
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