The film was released on July 11, 2008, received generally negative reviews and grossed $50 million against its $60 million budget.
In his New York City apartment, a young boy named Josh Morrison (Austyn Lind Myers) stares through his telescope at an object falling from the sky. It is a golf-ball-sized metal ball which flies through the window and lands in his fishbowl, quickly draining the water along with the goldfish. He decides to show it at his school's science class presentation.
Some months later a massive fireball crashes into the water near Liberty Island. It is revealed to be a spaceship which resembles a human (Eddie Murphy), controlled by 100 tiny humanoid aliens. Its Captain (also played by Murphy) pilots the spaceship from the command deck located in its head, with the help of his second-in-command Number 2 (Ed Helms), and researcher Number 3 (Gabrielle Union). The spaceship looks very human, but the aliens don't know how to act in society and the ship displays numerous superpowers. A superstitious cop named Dooley (Scott Caan) desperately searches for the alien.
The aliens need to save their planet, Nil, from an energy crisis. They need salt, which they plan to take by draining the Earth's oceans using the metal ball, so they have to recover it. After the spaceship is hit by Josh's single mother Gina Morrison (Elizabeth Banks) and her car, the Captain decides to befriend Gina and Josh, telling them his name is Dave Ming Cheng, based on a quick scan of common Earth names, and Gina's comment that he looks more like a Dave than a Ming Cheng. They then see their missing ball in a photograph taken at the science presentation. After having breakfast with Gina, "Dave" goes to Josh's school where he pretends to be a substitute teacher and eventually is able to talk to Josh alone. Josh tells him that the ball was taken from him by a bully (Nicholas Berman). With Josh's help, Dave takes the metal ball back from the bully.
The Captain (via Dave) spends some time with Josh and Gina and realizes that humans are more advanced than they thought, having feelings and love, such as witnessing Gina's painting or a homeless man offering to share his blanket with Dave when he sleeps in a doorway. He decides to cancel the plan to drain the oceans because it would destroy life on Earth. The police track Dave down using the impression of his face found in the dirt at the crash site and they arrest him. After spending too much time on Earth, most of the crew begins to exhibit new "feelings", adopting Earth's culture, mannerisms and general laid-back attitude. Number 2 decides that the captain and the rest of the crew's changing behavior is unacceptable so he takes command and imprisons the Captain. Under Number 2's command, Dave breaks out of the police station and they try to arrest him again. Number 3, who has become infatuated with the Captain, becomes jealous of Gina. She first cooperates in the command change but later agrees with the Captain's view on humans. Both are caught by Number 2, and they are expelled from the spaceship. In the meantime, Number 17 (Kevin Hart), a young, fun-loving alien jumps out while drunk from the alcohol Dave has imbibed. The Captain apologizes to Number 3 for ignoring her. He admits that he too loves her and wants to be with her. Back at the police station, Dooley discovers Number 17 in his coffee and interrogates him to find out where Dave is going.
Number 2 takes Dave to the harbor, where he tries to throw the metal orb into the ocean, but is stopped by the Captain and Number 3, who managed to gain reentry back onto the ship. They convince the rest of the crew that the real Captain is in charge again. Reinstated, he orders Number 2 to be stuck in the ship's "butt" forever. The metal orb meanwhile slips out of Dave's hand and rolls into the ocean. The Captain attempts to retrieve the orb but is told that they only have enough power to either retrieve it or return home. The Captain decides to save the Earth and the rest of the crew agrees. The ball, thrown in the ocean by Number 2, is retrieved. Dave powers down while Dooley and his partner catch up and point their guns at him. With no power, Dave's shields are disabled, leaving the crew defenseless. Josh tries to tell the police officers that Dave is harmless but is ignored. He then grabs Dooley's taser which he uses on Dave, recharging him. The captain and Number 3 reveal themselves to the police officers who stand down. The Captain says goodbye to Josh and Gina saying he now understands love. Number 17 is then returned to Dave by Dooley. About to fly away, a team from the FBI arrives and throws a net over Dave. While the FBI agents wrestle the body down, "Dave's" crew evacuates to one of the ship's "lifeboat" shoes, activate the engines, detaches the shoe and heads home to Nil, leaving behind both the ship and Number 2. While in the lifeboat, The captain asks for Number 3's hand in marriage. She accepts and they kiss.Eddie Murphy as Dave Ming Cheng / The Captain (Number 1)
Elizabeth Banks as Gina Morrison
Gabrielle Union as Number 3
Ed Helms as Number 2
Marc Blucas as Mark Rhodes
Scott Caan as Officer Dooley
Kevin Hart as Number 17
Yvette Nicole Brown as Betty, an Old Navy Saleswoman.
Mike O'Malley as Officer Stevie Knox
Austyn Lind Myers as Josh Morrison
Pat Kilbane as Number 4 / Johnny Dazzles
Tariq Bah as Marcus Grill
Miguel A. Núñez, Jr. as Number 12
Adam Tomei as Number 35
Allisyn Ashley Arm as Nerdy Girl
Screenwriter Bill Corbett originally pitched the story for SciFi.com, the website for the Sci Fi Channel, which previously aired Mystery Science Theater 3000, where Corbett worked as a writer and actor. The concept was eventually dropped and Corbett, along with other MST3K alumni, instead developed the online mini-series The Adventures of Edward the Less for the site. Corbett later revived the idea for a movie and discussed it with friend and fellow writer Rob Greenberg, who would become his screenwriting partner for the project. Although both writers acknowledged several other "little people inside big people" movies had been made in the past, Corbett thought the aspect of an entire Star Trek like crew operating a human being bore some originality.
During filming, Meet Dave was transferred from Paramount Pictures (which released many of Murphy's early films) to 20th Century Fox (which released Dr. Dolittle).
Meet Dave was written under the title Starship Dave, but studio executives insisted on a title change in part because of the poor box office performance of The Adventures of Pluto Nash, a 2002 science-fiction comedy that also starred Eddie Murphy. Corbett said the executives also wanted the title changed because they felt having any semblance of science-fiction in the title would isolate a large percentage of audiences. Corbett unsuccessfully argued against changing the title, which he described as "beyond generic" and said was repetitive of a comedy released earlier in the year called Meet Bill.
Although the project as it was originally conceived appealed to both children and slightly older audiences, the final script aimed for a much more solidly family-based audience. Corbett and Greenberg wrote the original draft and some subsequent drafts and, although they were given the sole writing credit, Corbett said other writers "have romped through the script as well," including one unnamed writer who spent one week adding material after the final draft was submitted. A large amount of improvising and rewriting was also done on the set, and Corbett and Greenberg had little creative control during filming. Corbett said most of the people they worked with were pleasant and some of the notes from the studio were helpful, but that Meet Dave ultimately suffered from a "too-many-cooks thing."
Filming was expected to begin in March 2007. As of early June, they were filming scenes at the Statue of Liberty in New York City. There was also some filming in early 2007 at an elementary school in Pasadena, California.
Meet Dave: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was composed by John Debney and released by Varèse Sarabande. He recorded his score with the Hollywood Studio Symphony at the Newman Scoring Stage in February 2008.
Meet Dave began receiving criticism and virulence months before it was actually released, especially by die-hard film fans Corbett compared to the Comic Book Guy character in The Simpsons. Greenberg enjoyed reading the negative comments on the Internet Movie Database, whereas Corbett said he would "rather take an acid bath" than read them. Corbett, who did not see the final film until after it was widely released, said he did not know how the final result would come out:
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.
Murphy skipped the Meet Dave premiere because he was working on the 2012 comedy A Thousand Words. Screenwriter Bill Corbett also missed the premiere, which he said was due to family plans, "not an act of protest, per se".
Meet Dave grossed $11.8 million in the United States and Canada and $38.8 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $50.7 million, against its production budget of $60 million.
The film opened on July 11, 2008, in 3,011 theaters in North America and grossed $5.3 million, ranking seventh at the box office. 20th Century Fox distribution executive Bert Livingston said, "It was a tough concept to get across. It's upsetting for all of us and for Eddie. He's very funny in this. Just not enough people came."
In its third weekend, it broke the record for the highest number of theater drops for a film in wide release, losing 2,523 theaters (77%). It held the record until Live by Night was dropped from 2,659 theaters (94.1%) in January 2017.
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 19% based on 101 reviews, with an average rating of 4.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Easy gags and slack direction drag this occasionally clever alien-out-of-planet comedy down to unimaginative lows." Another review aggregator, Metacritic, gave the film a score of 43 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
The film's poor performance became a joke for comedians. Jay Leno said that the film's title was going to be changed to Meet Dave: At Blockbuster, insinuating that the movie should have been a straight-to-DVD release. In the Family Guy episode "Friends of Peter G", during the "Mr. Booze" song number, Carl mentioned that since he started drinking, he has never left his couch and has seen every movie ever made. Meet Dave is the first movie called out, and Carl mentions he has seen it.
Bill Corbett said he would love to record a Meet Dave track on RiffTrax, a site featuring downloadable audio commentaries recorded by Mystery Science Theater 3000 alum Michael J. Nelson and other regular commentators, including Corbett. Corbett said the track was not likely to ever be recorded since comedies rarely work as spoofs. A reference to the film was included in the RiffTrax Presents commentary for Planet of the Apes recorded by Matthew J. Elliott (in which he suggested that the filmmaker's original intention had been to launch Charlton Heston's character into space inside a giant Eddie Murphy), as well as the commentary for The Day After Tomorrow recorded by Corbett and Kevin Murphy, in which Bill claims the natural phenomena hitting Los Angeles were "almost as big a Hollywood disaster as Meet Dave's box office".
It was nominated for two Razzie Awards, Worst Actor (Eddie Murphy) and Worst Screen Couple (Eddie Murphy in Eddie Murphy).