By Phil Contrino
After the disappointing performance of Mike Myers' The Love Guru, all eyes will be on Eddie Murphy this weekend when his latest project, Meet Dave, opens across the country.
The failure of Guru proved once again that even comedy giants aren't immune to box office duds. Which is a truth that Murphy is already familiar with.
Over the past several years, the actor has had mixed success. Despite receiving mediocre reviews, Daddy Day Care and Norbit were financial successes and Murphy also lent his voice to the highly profitable Shrek franchise. Meanwhile, his dramatic turn in the critical and commercial hit Dreamgirls brought him inches away from an Oscar.
Yet the recent failure of Showtime, I Spy and especially The Adventures of Pluto Nash, which had a reported budget of $100 million and brought in only $4.4 million domestically, definitely casts a shadow over Meet Dave 's box office prospects.
Although Jeff Bock, Box Office Analyst for Exhibitor Relations, thinks Murphy should come out on top this time around.
"Eddie Murphy is one of those actors that when he does family films, he's basically critic proof ... These types of films obviously don't arrive with any buzz at all, but they still hit their specific family demographic that always shows up," said Bock.
As is most often the case during the summer, Dave is opening against two other films with pretty strong box office prospects: Hellboy 2: The Golden Army and Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D.
"I think Journey to the Center of the Earth will probably affect Meet Dave more than Hellboy," said Bock, "They really are both going for that not-edgy, family audience."
Of course, Meet Dave could ultimately be seen as an inconsequential step in Murphy's career, regardless of it's success or failure.
The actor made headlines recently when he announced that he would be retiring from movies in order to return to stand-up comedy at the age of 50 - he’s currently 47 - and also that he is open to doing Beverly Hills Cop IV.
As for Murphy's plans to move back in the direction of edgy comedy, Bock remains skeptical.
"Eddie Murphy's career has just been really revitalized by this shift towards family films. And maybe if they aren't successful at some point he'd return to that hard-lined, rated-R Eddie Murphy that audiences fell in love with in
Beverly Hills Cop... It would be nice to seem him return to that form but we're not going to see that unless he has a couple misfires with his PG-rated films."