I understand now why David Duchovny did an about-face on his X-Files
career. As convoluted as Chris Carter's scripts and plotlines were, at least
they never fell flat on their faces.
The poor guy wanted desperately to avoid getting typecast, so he swore off
Fox Mulder, his character from the hit television show. As he said in an interview
last year, "I think it will be difficult to do another series since people
will always remember my work in the X-FILES. I think it's the best time to turn
the page and do something else." He wanted to do movies, and after the
disappointing Playing God and Return to Me, he signed on beside
Julianne Moore and Orlando Jones to play… a charming and hunky guy who
finds aliens and falls for a redhead. So much for breaking out of the box….
The problem, though, is not in the similarities of the lead character to Fox
Mulder. In fact, one of the movie's few highlights is a blatant stab at Duchovny's
other life. The cast is a good sign of things to come. As strong as Duchovny,
Jones, and Moore are in their respective areas, there's not a lot of bleed over,
and it shows. While there is good chemistry among the three (as well as the
supporting roles), the focus shifts constantly and jarringly from science fiction
to comedy. It's not that this can't be done well -- Galaxy Quest was
a fun movie that provided laughs and a strong speculative fiction story.
Sadly, Evolution has little of either. Not that it doesn't try, especially
in the humor area. The film is billed as a comedy, and rightly so (since it
doesn't fit into any other category). There are some great set-ups scattered
throughout the film, and even a few that deliver, but ultimately a lot of the
bits fall flat. At times, in fact, the jokes do so at the expense of any sense
of cohesion that the film might have had.
Now, don't misunderstand me: I have nothing against low-brow humor, but a
movie that gets it's strongest laughs from ass jokes with material that has
so much potential has a real problem. Admittedly, I laughed along with the rest
of the preview audience, but for once, I felt guilty about having done so. Orlando
Jones is really the star of this film, with great facial expressions and a very
comfortable delivery. Duchovny, too, shows a lot of promise in comedy, with
better material. Julianne Moore as the fall girl?
You had me, and then… you lost me.
Of course, the movie may have been doomed from the beginning. It was birthed
as a fine hard-edged science fiction piece, and only later at the studio level
was it turned into a comedy, rewritten to add laughs and ass jokes. The story
-- about a meteor crashing to Earth and releasing a life-form that evolves in
quantum leaps, threatening to over-run our planet -- is ripe with possibilities
for action, scares, and extensive use of computer-created critters. Unfortunately,
the rewrite process has torn the focus and stripped away much of the cohesion
that belongs in a two hour film. The result is a movie that struggles to find
its aim, and in doing so, leaves a lot of good talent struggling in its wake.
With director Ivan Reitman at the helm, perhaps I simply expected better (although,
to be honest, I didn't know what to expect). Of course, Reitman's attachment
also invites the inevitable Ghostbusters comparisons, so here's mine:
while Evolution has the occasional funny moment and some really nice
CGI effects, Ghostbusters (and even its sequel) is a far more consistent
and superior take on funny sci-fi. While I rarely recommend a trip to the video
store over a visit to the big screen, Evolution is a perfect excuse
to go against the norm.