Evolution (review)

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Ah, poor David Duchovny. So desperate to get away from The X-Files, he goes as far from paranoia drama about alien invasion requiring a Russian-novel attention span as he can, leaping into an action-comedy asking nothing more than an 8th-grade mentality. Okay, it’s still about alien invasion, but he gets to say things like “horseshit” and bare his ass to moon military types and generally behave in a PG13 manner that had been somewhat restricted to him on television. But can this truly to be said to be an improvement for a guy who graduated from Princeton and almost kicked Stephen King’s butt on Celebrity Jeopardy?
Okay, as community college biology teacher Ira Kane, Duchovny (Playing God) also gets to utter some technobabble about DNA base pairs — a little science thrown in with the fiction… a very little. But that’s pretty much where the smart stuff ends. Evolution — not a description of the direction of Duchovny’s career trajectory — is a sorry retread of Ghostbusters, a bad remake of Men in Black, and nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is.

When Kane and geology teacher Harry Block (Orlando Jones: Bedazzled, Office Space) investigate an asteroid that crashed into the nearby Arizona desert, they discover that it bleeds a mysterious liquid (that looks suspiciously like The X-Files black oil) that turns out to contain single-celled alien organisms with a stupendously speeded-up life cycle. They’re evolving, fast, and a little alien ecosystem is developing around the cave in which the asteroid came to rest. Before you can say “government coverup,” here comes guys in uniform with bad attitudes to cover it all up and steal the credit for the discovery from Kane and Block. Julianne Moore (Hannibal, Magnolia), as a CDC doctor, is along for the conspiracy fun. But the aliens — rapidly evolving from little bugs to big bugs to dinosauroids and beyond — are showing up all over Arizona suburbia, frightening housewives and demanding to be busted by back- off- man- they’re- scientists.

Goofy ghosts haunting New York is an inherently funny concept — the jokes spring naturally from the clash of paranormal spooks meeting cynical New Yawkas. CGI aliens invading Arizona is not inherently funny. In fact, Don Jakoby’s original script for Evolution wasn’t a comedy — it was a drama, and one that obviously took far too much inspiration from 50s B sci-fi flicks about resourceful scientific types in tweed jackets politely butting heads with the local army general as radioactive mutant housecats destroy apple-pie America. But director Ivan Reitman (Six Days Seven Nights), who has clearly lost his comedic touch, threw in yokel cops, dopey locals, crotch jokes, rectal humor, pratfalls, and Agent Mulder’s butt, and the result is a film that doesn’t knowingly smirk, as his Ghostbusters did, so much as snicker at its own juvenile attempts at wit.

David, honey, you’re better than this.

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