In an attempt to rehash the formula he hit gold with in 1984, director Ivan
Reitman's "Evolution" plays out like a present-day version of "Ghostbusters,"
replacing ghosts with fast-evolving aliens. While all of the stock characters
are present, as well as similar plot developments, the film is absent of
anything remotely witty or original. Tellingly, the jokes fly fast and
furious throughout, but the number of comedic moments that actually work can
be counted on one hand.
The movie opens with slacker Wayne Green (Seann William Scott) out in the
middle of the Arizona desert practicing for his impending test to become a
firefighter, when a giant meteor crashes to earth. Hot on the case is college
professors Ira Kane (David Duchovny) and Harry Block (Orlando Jones), who
discover that the meteorite has unleashed a number of single-celled alien
organisms that are growing, and multiplying, at a rapid rate. Before long,
these gradually growing creatures have begun to take over the sleepy town,
and if Ira, Harry, and Wayne, with the added help of clumsy Dr. Allison Reed
(Julianne Moore), don't find a way to stop them, it will mean the extinction
of mankind within two months.
The idea behind "Evolution"--that of quick-producing aliens irresolutely
taking over earth--is not a particularly new one ("Gremlins," anyone?), but
it has enough promise that it's too bad screenwriters David Diamond, David
Weissman, and Don Jakoby botch the results. Originally conceived as a serious
sci-fi picture, my guess is once director Reitman came aboard, he had a
little something to do with its switch in genres. On the basis of what has
shown up onscreen, it was the wrong choice. While "Ghostbusters" was able to
mix scares with laughs, "Evolution" falls flat on both counts, and ends up
Reitman has appointed an impressive cast, but all of the actors have done far
stronger work. In fact, most of the performances leave something to be
desired. David Duchovny (2000's "Return to Me") toplines the film as Ira
Kane, a science professor who once worked with the government, and he's a
genuine bore. In too many of Duchovny's big-screen roles, he is a
good-looking face vacant of a personality. Seann William Scott (2000's "Dude,
Where's My Car?") repeats the same type of character he has played in every
movie on his resume (including 1999's "American Pie"), and does little else.
And Julianne Moore (2001's "Hannibal") is woefully misused as Dr. Allison
Reed, a cute klutz whose main character trait is that she falls down and runs
into doors a lot. Moore is so much better than what this weak material
provides. Only Orlando Jones (2001's "Say It Isn't So") stands out as Harry
Block, who knows very well when things get dangerous that black men are the
first to go in these situations. Jones is a comic delight, and his appearance
is superior to anything else here.
"Evolution" isn't a total washout, but it is an overall waste of time. There
is nothing offered that hasn't been done better in other movies, and at 97
minutes (including credits), it's over just as its momentum has begun to
build. Not helping matters is that the entire first half is slow and
generally monotonous, as tension escalates--to nothing. Reitman may have
wanted to make a "Ghostbusters" for the new millennium, but what he has done
with "Evolution," instead, is made a low-rent version of "Men in Black."
©2001 by Dustin Putman