The Death Of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Birthed A Bizarre Eddie Murphy Movie

When the cult hit "Mystery Science Theater 3000" drew to a close in 1999, most of the show's writers and cast members pretty swiftly re-assembled to repeat the show's shtick in other forms. The show's creator, Joel Hodgson, assembled "Cinematic Titanic," while Mike Nelson spun off into "The Film Crew" and "Rifftrax." Most of the alumni and alumnae of "MST3K" have been touring live from time to time "riffing" on bad movies. And, wouldn't you know it, "MST3K" even returned eventually

Several of the show's writers and stars, however, did attempt other projects in the interim. Several of them wrote books, for instance. Kevin Murphy wrote "A Year at the Movies: One Man's Filmgoing Odyssey," an amusing tome about his attempt to watch at least one movie in a theater every single day for a year. Frank Conniff wrote "Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life In No Way Whatsoever," which is about how his life hasn't been changed, as well as a satirical book called "Codename D.O.U.C.H.E.B.A.G." Mary Jo Pehl wrote a memoir called "Employee of the Month and Other Big Deals," and Mike Nelson wrote two books of essays ("Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese," and "Mind Over Matters") as well as a novel ("Death Rat!").

Several of the cast members — having honed their wit to diamond points on the grindstone of the world's most horrendous movies — tried their hand at screenwriting. Hodgson is a credited writer on the 1997 straight-to-video sequel "Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves," for instance. And Bill Corbett, who played Crow T. Robot and Observer (a.k.a. Brain Guy) in the later seasons of the show — as well as being among the "Rifftrax" and "Film Crew" crew — co-wrote a bizarre sci-fi comedy film called "Meet Dave."

Meet Dave

"Meet Dave" is a 2008 film starring Eddie Murphy and directed by Brian Robbins, wherein Murphy plays a human-shaped spaceship that is being manipulated from inside by 100 miniature aliens. The captain of the vessel is also played by Eddie Murphy, with other aliens inside the ship played by Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart, and Ed Helms. The aliens' goal is to deplete Earth's oceans of salt, a valuable power resource on their home planet. The plot involves the aliens, trapped in their Eddie Murphy-shaped ship, attempting to recover their desalinization device, but also pass as human. 

Bill Corbett had low ambitions for "Meet Dave," originally pitching it to, the online-only portion of the Sci-Fi Channel as a short form comedy series. SciFi rejected the idea. A few years later, Corbett revisited the idea, and 20th Century Fox decided to develop it into a feature film called "Starship Dave." After the financial failure of director Ron Underwood's "The Adventures of Pluto Nash," also starring Murphy, the studio changed the title to "Meet Dave" to stave off any suspicion that it might be a sci-fi film. Corbett thought the new title was too generic (per the Rifftrax blog). He was right. Corbett also reminisced that "Comic Book Guy types" were lambasting "Meet Dave" before release, pointing out that human-shaped vehicles were old hat. Corbett knew that. He was borrowing a trope to make a silly comedy. 

In a 2014 Wired article, Corbett stated his experience thus:

I was doing my best to sell screenplays. I eventually sold one: 'Meet Dave,' with Eddie Murphy. It turned out to be kind of a s***ty movie, but it was a really interesting experience, because I saw how bad movies can be made. I actually liked a lot of the people I was working with; they were not stereotypically creepy Hollywood producers. But when you are creating something so huge — and something that involves so many people with high stakes, often working at cross purposes — the odds of any movie being genuinely good are pretty low.

Hollywood does tend to suckify things

Corbett did not see a completed version of "Meet Dave" until it was released in theaters. He was anxious about the film because, like most studio films, the screenplay was passed around between multiple writers (for complicated legal reasons, only one person, or a few people, get credited on every screenplay. Most studio pictures have at least 10 writers). Corbett expressed trepidation: 

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. 

Corbett watched his screenplay get picked apart, re-written, and constantly repaired by teams of very pleasant people who felt that it was in constant need of repair. 

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... 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.

"Meet Dave" was not well-received, getting mostly negative reviews and modest box office at best. With a "bad" movie under his belt, would Corbett now be in a position where he would be allowed to "riff" on as part of "Rifftrax?" He expressed being very open to the idea in theory, except that — while he feels while "Meet Dave" is terrible enough to warrant the "MST3K" treatment — mocking comedies is something he and the others always avoided, since it ends up feeling repetitive to point out unfunny jokes. 

Corbett has made a career of making movies funny. It's a pity that the Hollywood machine prevented him from doing it for "Meet Dave."