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Dreamworks // PG-13 // June 9, 2001
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted August 16, 2001 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

"Evolution" is one of those films that I didn't hate sitting through, but ended up being such a waste of time that I began to hate myself for spending the time to watch it. The film almost signals a de-evolution in the comedy genre, as the movie takes pieces from other sci-fi pictures and slaps together a few very stale fart jokes and special effects, pairs them with some mis-cast actors and calls it all a day.

David Duchovny, who still manages to occasionally turn up on TV's "X-Files", stars as Ira Kane, a professor at a small Arizona community college. It's obvious from the get go that Kane doesn't really have much of an interest as he gives all but two members of his class an A. When a meteor crash lands in the desert, he's called in with fellow professor Harry Block (Orlando Jones) to find out what happened. What was originally just a side-trip to take a peek turns a little more interesting when samples of the meteor reveal that the rock is actually made up of tiny creatures that are evolving at an unbelievably rapid rate. At the opening, once the creatures are fully grown into various weird alien forms, they can't adapt to our atmosphere and are stuck in the cave where the rock crashed. As the hours pass though, they're constantly evolving - and with the network of caves, it's only a matter of time before they rise above ground and find ways to adapt to our planet.

In the meantime, the army crashes the party. A general (Ted Levine) accompnied by a CDC employee named Allison Reed(a badly mis-cast and underused Julianne Moore) keep the two professors out of the area, even going so far as to go to court in an unnecessary scene that reveals Kane's past and a few stale bathroom-style jokes. It's dull scenes like these that have no payoff whatsoever that really make "Evolution" suffer; the pacing is way off, the comedic timing is non-existent, and I found a decent joke every 25-30 minutes. I've heard reports that "Evolution" was originally intended to be a drama when it was in development and, if so, the translation to comedy has failed greatly.

If you've got a bad screenplay - and "Evolution" does - at least have actors who are willing to sell the material for all its worth to at least mine a few laughs. David Duchovny, with his deadpan persona, is not the right choice. With a perfect partner in Gillian Anderson and better material on "The X-Files" that persona has created one of the more entertaining characters in recent television. With bad material, Duchovny not only is boring, but looks bored. The only funny line from the actor, which jokes about his "X-Files" career ("No government. I know those people.") was already in all of the trailers. Moore doesn't fare any better - a one joke character (she keeps falling down - hilarious.), the actress deserves a whole lot better. The other two actors work a whole lot better - Orlando Jones actually puts forth some energy towards the lines and a few obviously improved moments are some of the few bright spots. Seann William Scott, previously of "American Pie" and "Dude, Where's My Car?" takes his stoner persona and recycles it for one more outing. He does get some of the better lines, though, although in "Evolution" that's saying very little.

Last, but not least, in one of what has to be the most random scenes of the year, the group sings "Play That Funky Music" in their jeep as they go to check out the aliens. The unenergetic tone of the movie (and the fact that it's been done millions of times before) makes this painfully unfunny and weirdly placed in the film. If the movie wasn't taking itself seriously and just having fun, maybe this would seem at least slightly more acceptable, but no one in "Evoltion" seems to be enjoying themselves. None of the characters really seem to care about what's happening all that much, nor is the outcome of the movie ever in question. Look for the cliche army general who has the wrong idea and won't listen to the people with the right idea, the senator(Dan Ackroyd) who just wants to get the problem solved even in the wrong fashion, etc. There's nothing in "Evolution" that we haven't all seen many times before. Reitman simply takes parts and pieces from other pictures - his own "Ghostbusters", Barry Sonnenfeld's "Men In Black", "Tremors" and quite a few others, but doesn't bring a whole lot of anything new to the party. The creatures are decently done special effects, but there's so little of interest going on in the movie that even the more interesting effects were met with a yawn.

At the core of it all rests the same problem as many films lately, whatever genre they are - no one seems to have read the screenplay before laying down tons of cash to actually make the film - and in the case of "Evoltion", two studios worked together to bring us this alarmingly dull feature. Chalk another one up in the "the only mildly funny moments were already in the trailer" section.

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