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Three Comedies from Fox

Meet Dave (January 15/08)

Silly yet entertaining, Meet Dave casts Eddie Murphy as both a human-sized spacecraft named Dave and its miniaturized captain - with the film following the cybernetic organism as it arrives in New York City hoping to retrieve an orb vital to its planet's survival. Director Brian Robbins - working from a screenplay by Rob Greenberg and Bill Corbett - has fashioned a fish-out-of-water tale that's initially quite charming, as the filmmaker focuses on Dave's expectedly goofy efforts at blending into contemporary society (as well as his tentative friendship with Elizabeth Banks' friendly single mother and her inquisitive young son). And while a lot of this stuff is almost excessively juvenile (Dave sharpens a pencil in his ear, Dave poops money, etc), the movie possesses an easy-going vibe that ultimately proves irresistible - with Murphy's engaging, sporadically hilarious performance effectively carrying the proceedings through its more overtly ineffective interludes (ie the incongruously action-oriented third act). The eclectic support cast - which includes, among others, Ed Helms, Kevin Hart, and Scott Caan - contributes heavily to the pervasively affable atmosphere, while it's hard to deny that some of the jokes and one-liners are admittedly much funnier than one might've anticipated (ie one of the tiny crewmen refers to human beings as "gargantuan savages"). The end result is an effort whose unabashedly puerile sensibilities will surely turn off a good proportion of non-adolescent viewers, yet there's little doubt that one could certainly do much worse as far as Murphy's family-friendly output goes.

out of

The Rocker (February 2/09)

Before it falls prey to an expectedly (yet aggressively) melodramatic third act, The Rocker comes off as an agreeable, sporadically hilarious comedy that benefits substantially from the almost uniformly strong performances. Rainn Wilson stars as Robert "Fish" Fishman, an exuberant drummer whose life takes an unfortunate turn after he's dumped by fellow musicians Lex (Will Arnett) Kerr (Fred Armisen), and Trash (Bradley Cooper) at the behest of a sinister record executive. Decades later, Fish's nephew (Josh Gad's Matt) offers the erstwhile rocker a spot within his fledgling band (alongside Teddy Geiger's Curtis and Emma Stone's Amelia) and it's not long before Fish is once again on top of the world (albeit to a far lesser degree than his former bandmates). Screenwriters Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky have infused The Rocker with a consistently irreverent sensibility that's reflected in Wilson's unapologetically go-for-broke performance, as the actor effortlessly sheds his sociopathic Office persona to assume the guise of a hopelessly (and infectiously) exuberant musician (and while the remainder of the cast is quite good, Jason Sudeikis's scene-stealing turn as a super-sleazy A&R rep proves to be an undeniable highlight). The almost episodic nature of The Rocker's midsection - ie Fish and his cronies find themselves embroiled in one wacky adventure after another - lends the proceedings an irresistibly light-hearted vibe that carries it through the majority of its running time, yet there's little doubt that the movie's momentum takes a serious hit following the introduction of several needlessly dramatic elements. The end result is an instantly forgettable endeavor that admittedly fares slightly better than the majority of its PG-13 comedic brethren, although - given the promise of the film's early scenes - one can't help but feel a fair amount of disappointment at the final half-hour's hackneyed nature.

out of

Space Chimps (February 6/09)

There's little doubt that Space Chimps strikes virtually all of the wrong notes right from the get-go, as the film has been aggressively geared towards small children to such an extent that there's hardly anything here designed to capture and hold the interest of adults. The low-rent animation proves effective at exacerbating the film's myriad of problems, and although there are a few strong voice performances within the supporting cast (ie Patrick Warburton's scene-stealing turn as a pompous chimp), Space Chimps ultimately possesses the feel of a quickie straight-to-video cash-grab. The storyline follows the three title characters (Andy Samberg's Ham III, Cheryl Hines' Luna, and Warburton's Titan) as they're blasted into deep space on a top-secret mission, with the bulk of the proceedings devoted to their efforts at toppling a far-away planet's ruthless dictator (Jeff Daniels' Zartog). Screenwriters Kirk DeMicco and Rob Moreland have infused Space Chimp with a myriad of pop-culture gags and references, yet it inevitably goes without saying that the joke-to-laugh ratio remains hopelessly low from start to finish - with the one exception to this an admittedly chuckle-worthy line from Titan in which he laments his very existence and wonders aloud, "why wasn't I born a rabbit or a squirrel or an art-history major? Nobody expects great things from them." And while Samberg has been awfully funny in his various other projects (including 2007's woefully underrated Hot Rod), the actor offers up a relentlessly over-the-top performance that's consistently grating and effectively heightens the feeling that the movie has been crafted with an eye solely towards younger viewers.

out of

© David Nusair