In 2006, Eddie Murphy made Norbit, a film that was racist, sexist, and worst of all, unfunny. It was considered to be the worst thing he’d ever done by pretty much everybody. And that was in the same year that he abandoned Scary Spice while she was pregnant with his child. I bet if you asked her today, she’d probably think Norbit was worse too. So imagine my surprise when I sat in the cinema and found his latest PG rated comedy to be both i) a clever concept, and ii) well-executed. In fact, I might even go out on a limb and actually say that Meet Dave is, um, good.

In Meet Dave, Murphy plays a giant humanoid space-ship that has landed on Earth, and is manned by the tiny, also humanoid aliens from the planet Nim. The Captain (Murphy again, showing restraint by only playing two characters) leads his crew in a mission to steal all the salt from Earth’s oceans to save their own dying planet. This act might also kill Earth, but it’s a price they’re willing to pay. Their mission is delayed by unexpected circumstances, as the entire crew begin to take on human traits and become affectionate, fun-loving, and in one case, flamboyantly homosexual. As the giant spaceship (referred to as Dave) befriends a single-mother (Banks) and her son, the Captain becomes fond of the planet he is charged with destroying.

Don’t be fooled by the awful trailers and marketing campaign (which in the U.S included a flatbed truck carrying a giant model of Murphy’s head. Because that’s not annoying.) Meet Dave is a pretty good family film, with enough juvenile humour and sweetness to please most. Think of Elf via Galaxy Quest, and you’ve got a pertty good idea of what to expect. I’ve come to accept that Axel Foley and Prince Akeem are probably long dead – at least in terms of Murphy creating a character even close to being as funny. But i’ve got to say, there aren’t really a lot of problems with Meet Dave.

Murphy plays the awkward spaceship pretty well, and he had me laughing along with most of the children in the audience pretty loudly (and yes, I feel very ashamed as I write this). Banks is also convincing as the kind-hearted single mother, and Ed Helms seems to be enjoying playing the mutinous human-hating crewmember aboard Dave. I suppose if I had to nitpick, the directing is pretty uninspired. The New York setting is wasted here, and it might actually be the ugliest the city has ever looked (that includes Taxi Driver). Also, the CGI is kind of terrible. But the kid’s didn’t care about that, and to be honest, neither did I while I was watching the film.

What really struck me is the film’s sweetness. It gets a little soppy at the end, but it’s not out of the film’s character, and its kind-of effective as well. In one scene, a hobo shares his blanket with the homeless starship, and the kind act really seems to effect the entire crew. This was a really nice comedy, one that I actually enjoyed watching. Compare that with The Love Guru, which hates both its audience, and laughter in general.

Don’t go in expecting 48 Hours Murphy, or even Bowfinger Murphy. This is a family film, even maybe a kids film. But for a kids film, its pretty good, and there seems to have at least been some care taken in the making. Although it might be a little forgettable, and least its not unforgettable for the wrong reasons. It’s a long climb up from Norbit, but Murphy’s getting there.