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Grade: D-Evolution (2001)

Director: Ivan Reitman

Stars: David Duchovny, Orlando Jones, Julianne Moore

Release Company: Dreamworks

MPAA Rating: PG-13

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Ivan Reitman: Evolution

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After certain movies I wish I could make like Memento's Leonard Shelby and emerge from the theater with a clean slate. Or perhaps a creative film distributor could employ a brain surgeon who can perform temporary lobotomies in order to endure films like Evolution.

I had slightly higher hopes. After all, producer/director Ivan Reitman has created a few enjoyable comedy hits over the years (Animal House and Stripes) and this film seemed patterned after his successful Ghostbusters project. The premise is much the same, only this time instead of amorphous special effects the
"ghosts" turn out to be ever-evolving aliens that morph from one-celled critters to flatworms on up the evolutionary ladder in record time—turning into whatever critters the marketing people are developing for product tie-ins, perhaps. Technology has advanced in the 17 years since Ghostbusters was released, so the special effects are more advanced. Unfortunately the comedy isn't.

All too often Reitman attempts to reach people with the mentality of a flatworm, and this may be working at the nation's multiplexes where hordes of them herd for mindless summer blockbuster fare. When I initially saw this film
during its theatrical release, the biggest shock occurred at the end of the movie when a number of people actually applauded—and they actually had enjoyed the film since they did laughed uncontrollably at the bathroom humor.

I suppose there is a time in one's life that people think that fat and clueless guys, mooning someone from your car, flatulence, and anal proctology is hilarious. The plot and characters are tired replicants of previous sci-fi films and comedies that we've seen before. Evolution begins much like the classic and much funnier Steve McQueen cult favorite, The Blob. A meteorite crashes near Lake Powell (site of the original Planet of the Apes), coming to rest in an underground cavern and oozing a mysterious green slimy liquid. The local police call in scientist Harry Block (Orlando Jones) from Glen Canyon Community College to investigate, and Block brings his friend and fellow scientist sidekick Ira Kane (David Duchovny) to provide the necessary white protagonist for the marketing department along with Duchovny's
X-Files credibility.

The heat has awakened the alien substance, and soon myriad life forms begin sprouting uncontrollably—some cutesy and harmless while others are bloodthirsty and vicious. The government gets involved, so introduce the arrogant and shortsighted Army soldier-scientist Dr. Woodman (Ted Levine) who fills in a back-story on Kane to explain why he has ended up at a small community college. It turns out that Kane once inoculated platoons of soldiers against anthrax, only to cause a myriad of side effects—partial paralysis, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, blindness, and diarrhea (to name a few).

For the female interest, enter Dr. Woodman's assistant Allison Reed (Julianne Moore) who is supposed to be funny because she falls over a lot and continuously bumps into everything. She has a heart of gold though, and immediately takes a liking to Kane after he literally exhibits his white ass to Woodman, so it is no surprise when she takes the side of the local scientists when the military attempts to block them from the alien investigation.

Like many other alien movies, mankind's extinction is imminent until the heroes come up with a simple device to thwart them—be it bacteria in War of the Worlds or freezing CO2 compounds from fire extinguishers in The Blob. Since there
's an inept aspiring fireman who first discovers the meteor and later joins forces with the good guys, we suspect that a similar solution will be found at the last minute after the "enemy" military forces bungle the job.

I
've seen worse comedies and actually did enjoy the location shooting in and around Page, Arizona (since I lived nearby for over twenty years). But after the predictable and very standard film was over, it felt like the movie had slimed me much like it had the characters by wasting two hours on banality.

But it could have been worse. Evolution is so forgettable that it doesnt stick with you very long, and you can soon move on to more productive use of your time. So if you're in the mood to take in some mindless garbage, this Reitman film could fit the bill.

Unfortunately these films will proliferate no matter what film critics say. It's all about the market, baby, and when people actually applaud at the end of this kind of generic crapola, its a sign that attacks from alien creatures who suck the brains from their victims a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers are already in full swing.

 


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