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Meat, Dave?

July 10th, 2008 by · 65 Comments

    Meet Dave

    Sir Edward Murphy delivers the climactic “Why Freedom Matters” monologue at the end of MEET DAVE, illustrating his point with an oversized pinball.

I’m in West Virginia this week on a family reunion, and it’s from this very un-Hollywood-ish corner of the U.S.A. that I watch as a movie called MEET DAVE opens nationwide tomorrow.

I wrote it, under its original title STARSHIP DAVE, along with my dear pal and occasional writing partner Rob Greenberg. That is, we wrote the original draft, and some subsequent drafts… and our names are the sole writers listed, for better or worse. As is very typical in the land of Jiminy Glick, however, a bunch of other writers have romped through the script as well.

As of this date I haven’t seen the movie. Really, all I’ve seen are the trailers everyone else has seen. I skipped the official premiere on Tuesday because of these longstanding family plans. Not an act of protest, per se. Things just got mucked up when the opening was switched from late May to mid July. But I was very happy not to be there, truth be told. It didn’t seem my like idea of a good time, my powder-blue prom tuxedo has long since ceased to fit, and I probably would have tripped on the red carpet and accidentally killed one of the lovely ladies in the cast. Scandal, disgrace, prison… so you see my point, I’m sure.

I might do a longer post sometime about the whole experience of writing and developing the movie, if enough people are interested. …Though even that would be almost 100% free of celeb gossip / dishing, and therefore might be a disappointing read.

But for now, I wanted to throw out some thoughts and assorted tidbits before seeing the movie, lest it seem like I’m retconning later on. In absolutely no order:

1) A bunch of people have asked me if I like the title change. I don’t. It’s beyond generic… it’s actually repetitive of a smaller movie released earlier this year. But I made my case, and after that it was out of my hands. It ain’t the end of the world, really. Just thought ours was more fun.

And I actually do understand the reasons for it. One of those reasons surprised me: according to the studios, ANY hint of sci-fi immediately means a pretty high percentage of the populace won’t show up. Bizarre to me and many of you, I’m sure. But (apparently) true. And yeah, I’m guessing it didn’t help that one of Mr. Murphy’s least-loved movies — critically murdered, and a box office pain-fest — was his previous sci-fi comedy.

2) My pal and writing partner Rob took almost a perverse pleasure in going on IMDB.com for months before the opening, and seeing all the vitriol lining up against the movie. I’d rather take an acid bath, myself, but… one theme he kept seeing from the Comic Book Guy-types there is that this isn’t an original idea.

Quite right, actually. It wasn’t wholly original, like just about everything else, ever. In fact, I originally pitched the general idea as something for the SciFi.com site years ago, but we went with EDWARD THE LESS instead. When I revived it as a movie idea and explained the general premise to Rob, I listed every single “little people inside big people” movie or TV show that preceded. So yeah, we understood that it wasn’t made out of whole cloth. Few things are.

What I thought was different here was the fact that we were basically placing a Star Trek-like crew inside a body to go exploring Earth. So the difference was mostly one of scale — we decided to take the idea to the Nth degree, with an entire crew inside, and make a movie of it.

3) It’s a comedy aimed at kids. “Hard” sci-fi devotees will not like it, and should not expect to like it. This movie can’t give you what you need, friends.

It wasn’t always aimed so squarely at the younger population. But this is a fundamentally silly premise. We know that. Add to it the fact that Rob and I each had two kids in the last five years, and we were amenable to pushing it in that direction. It may not be the height of sophistication, but I do hope there are still pleasures for non-small people… like the original Bugs Bunny cartoons, which kept both kids and their parents plenty amused. But we will see.

4) As of this writing I have no idea how the movie will play, all in all. I really don’t. It’s a very weird experience, writing for Hollywood at this level. Part of me is proud and wants to own this movie, promote it, generally celebrate it and look forward to all the possibilities that may emerge from the experience. And an equally real part of me wants to lock myself in a dark room for a month and pretend it never happened.

…Why the latter? Because the truth is that I had not a bit of control over the final product, and Hollywood does tend to suckify things. Often quite badly. In fact, there was at least one extra week of writing done AFTER the last draft Rob and I submitted, as well as lots of improvising and rewriting on the set… and that’s a scary prospect. This is not a slam on whoever did the last week of writing, whose name I don’t know, and who may have improved the whole thing immensely. It’s the not knowing that’s bizarre.

Likewise, I’d freely admit that not all of the notes we got over the ridiculously long process of developing the movie (though apparently speedy by Hollywood standards, especially given a studio change from Paramount to Fox at one point) were bad. Some were great, some were O.K., and many were just blather. The real problem is a too-many-cooks thing — when a movie tries to fulfill everyone’s “vision” (ahem) simultaneously, even when the visions contradict each other, well… you get most Hollywood movies, sadly. The system is broken, and even with the best of intentions on most people’s part it tends to produce dookie. I have no idea how you’d fix that, given that movies are first and foremost a big business. But I know that it would have to involve more artistic risk…. especially in terms of doing simple comedies, which are very delicate little critters. Load too much on them, and they just get smushed.

That said…

5) This may be the most disappointing item of all, in terms of juiciness: most of the people Rob and I worked with along the way were pleasant, and many of them had excellent ideas. It’s just that there were too many of them “fixing” this simple comedy.

I’m hoping that the original silly joy of the thing still survives, and even thrives. But I also didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, so I’m prepared for anything. Bring it, Universe!

6) Will we riff on this movie? I’d actually love to. “When the Riffer becomes the Riffed.” Perfect.

BUT — and this is a big one — we avoid comedies like the plague. Take a look at our catalogue, and you’ll see what I mean. We’ve tried it before, and it really doesn’t work very well for our purposes. You’re often reduced to variations on a snotty “well, that wasn’t funny” over and over again. True as it might be, even for MEET DAVE, it might not make a very funny Rifftrax. If we can’t make something more funny, we tend to pass.

But we’ll see. Maybe we can do some hybrid riff / commentary / give Bill a boatload of grief track.

7) Rifftraxes aside, nobody on this site should feel constrained from speaking freely about the movie. Lord knows I’ve dished out enough on other movies over the years, so MEET DAVE is fair game just like anything else. Snark away, if you will. I won’t protest. Have at it.

Lastly, I leave you with this, an image emblematic of an interesting but absurd few years. It’s a picture of my wife’s cousin Erin at a Braves game in Atlanta, where she lives…. and where a giant fake Eddie Murphy head traveled as part of its nationwide tour.

    erin in dave

    “Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

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