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K-PAX
Reviewed by Navin Vembar, ©

Format: Movie
By:   Ian Softley (Director)
Genre:   Science Fiction / Drama
Released:   October 26, 2001
Review Date:  
Audience Rating:   PG-13
RevSF Rating:   4/10 (What Is This?)

During the course of this movie, I felt many emotions -- anger at having to sit through the film, jealousy directed at my girlfriend who left the movie 15 minutes in to sneak into Serendipity (a movie I have been avoiding like the plague), and amazement at the sheer gall of the writer who produced a movie whose core philosophy was clearly formulated while listening to Yanni. I would hazard a guess that none of these emotions were exactly what the filmmakers were looking for from the audience.

Pause for deep, calming breaths.

K-PAX stars Kevin Spacey as the serene and continually sunglassed prot. He appears in a train station and is taken to Bellevue because he claims that he is an alien from the planet K-PAX. It is here that the first extremely implausible plot point comes into play -- no, not that prot claims he rode to Earth on a beam of light, but that Bellevue keeps prot, a composed, coherent guy, for an entire month before passing him on to the Psychiatric Institute of Manhattan. I mean, come on. You know there are a lot of seriously bad-off people living on the streets who, at best, get a 20-minute stay in the waiting room of the nearest hospital before being shunted back to the nearest refrigerator box. There is no way that they are going to end up in a place as nice as the Psychiatric Institute, a.k.a. "the most luxurious asylum I've ever seen on film."

Anyway, it is there that prot meets Dr. Mark Powell, played by Jeff Bridges. He's a specialist brought in to examine prot, in the hopes that he can break through his delusions. And, what do y'know, Dr. Powell has issues with his family! His wife thinks <gasp> that he works too much! Oh, no! Will he ever see that estranged son (who was mentioned all of twice) again?! What could ever happen?! I mean, it's not like a mysterious, Zen-calm stranger with the ability to magically make people see the wonders of life suddenly appeared in his hospital, is it?! Oh, wait....

This is the type of movie in which characters appear on the screen, frantically emote a problem, and have it simplistically solved by the end of the film. Which is exactly why it is set in a mental institution -- any patient with more than three lines of dialogue will be attended to by prot by the end of the movie. Got OCD? prot says, here's three tasks that'll fix everything. Can't speak? You'll be singing opera by the time the credits roll. Not a bit of ingenuity is displayed in this film. Even the ``Is he human or alien?'' ambiguity fails to incite interest.

K-PAX is also the type of film in which the creators think that they are being cleverly symbolic by having Dr. Powell move light out of his eyes (it means he doesn't see the light, get it?) or by letting an orderly say about prot, "Does he think he's Jesus Christ?" The word "obvious" shows up in my notes an inordinate number of times. As does the word "SCHMALTZ", which appears in all caps and underlined three times. This, my friends, is a word I have never once used in oral or written communication prior to now, and yet this movie compelled its use.

The one saving grace of the film is Spacey himself. He projects both an aura of charisma and a sense of otherness throughout K-PAX, and you can certainly understand why someone would listen to his farfetched tales. To be fair though, no other player was given anything to do, so one can't really judge the other actors' skills by their performance in this movie. For all the director, Iain Softley (Hackers) gave the others to do, Spacey might as well have been sitting in a room full of cardboard cutouts and little glass artifacts.

That non-sequitor at the end of the last paragraph was a jab at the overuse of refracting light throughout the movie. It felt like every single shot contained some glass chotchke making a little rainbow for our benefit. Had they not overdone it, the cinematography would have been decent, but that would have been asking too much.

There is one last thing I should mention about K-PAX. Its casting of Jeff Bridges was apparently based a skill demonstrated both in Arlington Road and Blown Away: his ability to run in slow motion while a digital clock ticks down to a plot-created deadline. Yes, dear reader, K-PAX's one and only stroke of imagination was to throw in a totally unexpected cinematic cliche onto its already massive collection of them.

Once again, pause for calming breaths. I should have seen Serendipity.


- RevSF contributor Navin Vembar needs to learn that not all romantic comedies are lame. I mean, come on: John Cusack and Jeremy Piven. How can you go wrong?

 
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