One night in New York City, young Josh (Austyn Myers) was stargazing through his telescope when he spotted a shooting star which drew closer and closer until it came straight through his window and landed in his fish bowl. It was a meteorite, and he was convinced it was significant, although his mother Gina (Elizabeth Banks) was less impressed. But he was right, and a few months later another object fell from the sky onto New York, just by the Statue of Liberty, an object shaped like a man. But it was no ordinary human, as it was actually a man-shaped spaceship with a mission...
Meet Dave (Dave was the name the crew give to their craft) was another rung on the ladder for Eddie Murphy's career in many eyes - not a rung on the way up, though, a rung on the way down. One of the comic star's fantasy-themed, supposedly child-friendly outings, for many of those who used to admire his talent this was yet more reason to give his movies a wide berth, but actually it was nowhere near the worst of his output, not by a long chalk. It was drawn from a script by two television writers, Rob Greenberg and Bill Corbett, the latter best known for being the replacement Crow on the last group of episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Certainly there was an element of the same sense of the ridiculous from that show here, and this movie's strength was its absurd line in humour that it brought out all too rarely when the other concern of the story, the whole "Aren't we great? Hooray for humanity, everybody! Give yourselves a round of applause! Better yet, high five yourself!" theme, tended to take over and dominate proceedings. This led to a resistable strain of sentimentality that stopped the laughs stone dead as little Josh has that tragedy in his life that his father has died, and mother Gina is still unlucky in love.
These two are intended to represent the best of mankind to change the Dave crew's mind about carrying out their potentially planet Earth-devastating mission, so as you can imagine they have no effect and our world is destroyed. Well, maybe not, and you can see that feelgood ending on its way from miles off, but there's nothing wrong with a movie that goes all out to cheer you up, it's just that in these hands those tries at lifting the spirits came across as more condescending than genuinely improving. This meant that the Dave ship was staffed by as many examples of human types they could think of, just to underline how inclusive they were being, so if you didn't spot your personality in this, hard luck.
It's a pity that there didn't seem to be much room for a more sardonic take on human nature, something that is the bonus of those funnier scenes. The parts where the Dave craft tries to fit in without seeming like an alien can be very amusing, with Murphy displaying a glimmer of his skill when he acts the weirdo and everyone about him is too polite to point out how strange he is. Bits of business like the crew, which includes Murphy as the Captain, trying to make sense of the world around them that results in them believing that the pet cat is a danger of lionine proportions or that Meat Loaf the singer is being served for dinner provide a pleasingly silly line of gags that they would have been wise to build on, as after all humour can be just as inclusive as any earnest attempts at bringing the audience together as shown here. Not as bad as its reputation, then, but you can't quite shake that feeling of being patronised. Music by John Debney.