Anyway, the movie he was watching was Meet Dave, that Eddie Murphy flick where he's a tiny alien secretly infiltrating Earth in the disguise of a life-sized android. I did not need audio with this movie to see how crappy it was. The special effects were not quite that special; there was a subplot involving a human family, in particular a little kid, that looked quite cliched; one of the alien characters was a gay stereotype, something Murphy has a rep for trafficking in; and the movie in general did not look terribly inspired. I watched it for no other reason than it was a way to kill time, but I couldn't help but wonder what the dude next to me saw in it.
Murphy has made eleven live-action films that could safely be called either sci-fi, fantasy, or horror: The Golden Child, Vampire in Brooklyn, The Nutty Professor 1 and 2, Doctor Dolittle 1 and 2, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, The Haunted Mansion, Meet Dave, Imagine That, and the forthcoming A Thousand Words. Those first ten films have an average Rotten Tomatoes score of 29, with the highest (and only fresh-rated) one being The Nutty Professor's 66, which is just barely a passing grade.
That Murphy has made crappy movies in recent years is not news. But Dave, if anything, reminded me of his jones for science fiction in general and one aspect of it in particular. In Dave, one of his roles is as the captain of a crew of aliens. They wear crisp, militaristic uniforms and operate out of a sleek, post-modern looking bridge on their "vessel" (the aforementioned life-sized android). Sound familiar?
He deserves it, don't you think? If other geeks like Samuel L. Jackson and Simon Pegg can cash in on their fanboy status with good roles in good movies like Unbreakable and Paul, then why can't Murphy find better geek roles? Why has he settled for less - and more importantly, why has he not embraced his inner geek, as guys like Jackson and Pegg have clearly done, to their advantage? Movies like Meet Dave and The Haunted Mansion seem to come across as family films first, geek films second. I think Murphy could generate some genuine goodwill by, say, a Comic-Con appearance or an interview on Attack of the Show, and possibly expand his fanbase as a result.
He also needs to work with better directors. This is something I've been saying for years. I'd like to see him return to his Beverly Hills Cop/48 Hours roots with a director like Michael Mann or Brian DePalma, or even someone edgier, a Darren Aronofsky-type, perhaps. But if we're talking about making a good sci-fi/fantasy movie, then perhaps someone like Guillermo del Toro or Alfonso Cuaron or Duncan Jones might be the move instead.
It's not too late. Murphy has indicated that he wants to get away from the children's films. Tower Heist, while it was far from a critical hit, was a step in the direction of the Murphy of old, the one millions of people adored for many years, which is all well and good. I think finding a quality genre film, though, could be very satisfying for him personally.