At least Eddie Murphy isn't knocking about in a fat suit in his latest comedy, "Meet Dave".
But there's not much else to recommend in this banal fish-out-of-water comedy. The lackluster title hints at the dull, witless and hackneyed story.
Murphy plays the captain of a Star Trek-type ship filled with miniature human-looking aliens who are far more advanced than earthlings. Apparently, they are traveling on an important mission from their planet, Nil — an appropriate name given the lack of laughs here — which is undergoing a life-or-death emergency.
Earth has something they need, so they send a representative (also Murphy) in the form of a man-shaped spaceship. The fellow with the weird smile who crash-lands in New York City is powered by a crew of very capable miniature people, each operating a different part of his body.
Upon meeting his first human, Gina (Elizabeth Banks), he blurts out a name offered to him by a researcher crewmember (Gabrielle Union). She chooses what she gleaned was one of the world's most common names: Ming Chang. Murphy assumes the identity of Dave Ming Chang. It's incongruous and worth a chuckle, but the joke gets stretched to the breaking point.
Visual gags and physical humor couldn't be aimed more squarely at the lowest common denominator.
Maybe a half dozen real laughs emerge amid precious little subtlety. Instead, there is potty humor aplenty, inane literal translations ("clear the table") and tired bits about a strait-laced alien who suddenly gives in to his flamboyant side when exposed to Broadway musicals and salsa dancing.
Jokes are laced with racism, homophobia and stereotypes of all stripes.
Given that co-screenwriter Bill Corbett was a writer for the quirky "Mystery Science Theater 3000", "Meet Dave" really should have been funnier. Things certainly don't improve when the movie plunges into trite sentimentality: "The most powerful force in all the universe often comes from the smallest stars," Dave tells Gina's son, Josh. And: "Promise me you'll always take pride in being different."
If only the movie had heeded its own advice and tried to be different from the standard formula. We might have enjoyed the powerful force of this big star and his gift for physical comedy if the movie offered fresh scenarios and fewer predictable jokes.