Some movies demand flow charts. Are you under the age of 11 and instantly amused by the notion of a spaceship that looks like Eddie Murphy, captained by a tiny Eddie Murphy and a crew of Spandex-clad explorers? If you answered "yes," proceed to Meet Dave. (And if you're amused by the notion of a character called "Lieutenant Buttocks," don't waste any time reading the rest of this review.) If you answered "no," you're likely to spend much of the film silently asking questions. Why, for instance, would humanoid aliens whose culture has so much in common with Earth's spend so much time baffled by what they encounter? Members of Murphy's miniscule crew smile at each other, but seem baffled when humans bare their teeth to greet the giant, Murphy-shaped ship.
You know what would put questions like that to rest? Laughs. Sadly, they're in short supply in this beyond-mild comedy, in which Murphy-the-ship awkwardly learns the ways of Earth while searching for a glowing orb that will drain the Earth of its water supply. (This includes a long sequence paying special attention to a popular budget-clothing store whose name he repeats with Rain Man-like persistence.) Along the way, Murphy-the-ship befriends a little boy (Austin Myers) and his widowed mother (Elizabeth Banks), causing Murphy-the-space-captain to consider the consequences of his water-plundering scheme. And what role does Lieutenant Buttocks play? Well, who else is equipped to help Murphy-the-ship after he consumes dozens of hot dogs? Those giant prop hot dogs aren't going to void themselves.
Proven comic talents like Judah Friedlander and Ed Helms make up much of Murphy's crew, but apart from speaking in contraction-free spaceman-ese, the film doesn't give them anything funny to do. Murphy's performance is little more than an unblinking variation on his Coming To America stranger-in-a-strange-land shtick crossed with gags left over from the late, unlamented '90s sitcom Herman's Head. Here a sample: Banks offers Murphy-the-ship some meat loaf. Cut to Murphy-the-captain being confused when shown footage of the singer Meat Loaf. It's comedy that doesn't ask anyone, onscreen or in the audience, to try too hard.