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Alien bust

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[Photos: DreamWorks]
David Duchovny, left, Julianne Moore and Orlando Jones suffer through Evolution.

By STEVE PERSALL

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 7, 2001


The director who brought you Ghostbusters tries to get by on a few names, some tricks and a lot of attitude. The result is a disappointment.

Good thing that Charles Darwin never applied his theory of evolution to comedy. In the case of Ivan Reitman, Darwin would be wrong.

It's painful to watch a creator of such comic gems as Animal House, Stripes and Ghostbusters regressing, and being so cavalier about it, as Reitman does with Evolution. There aren't any genuine jokes, only wiseacre attitudes and anal probes. There's no suspense, no countdown to Armageddon, just a barrage of icky computer doodles without personality, squirming and leaping into the camera for cheap shocks.

Humans don't fare any better. David Duchovny plays Ira Kane, a community college professor investigating a meteorite strike in Arizona's desert. The only actor more expressionless than Duchovny is probably deceased. Duchovny's smug mumble and lack of spark is a soft center for Reitman to build a movie around.
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David Duchovny, left and Julianne Moore in DreamWork's Evolution.

Soda pop salesman Orlando Jones plays Harry Block, a sidekick professor assisting Ira. Jones patiently stands aside until his turn to mug, flail and blurt weak, race-related wisecracks. His spotlight scene is feigning discomfort while having an alien worm removed from his colon. Don't worry, he turns the tables when the showdown between Earthlings and space invaders, the signature of any sci-fi adventure, happens inside a gaping, gooey alien sphincter.

Har-de-har-har.

Julianne Moore goes slumming as a clumsy government investigator. Duchovny may have requested a grim-faced redhead to make him feel at X-Files home. Moore trips a lot. On one occasion, she even bumps into a door. Probably looking for an exit from this movie.

It occurs to these characters (30 minutes after the audience knows) that the meteorite carried a rapidly evolving organism to our planet. Generations pass in hours, adapting to Earth's environment and getting meaner. There is an solution: The stupidest product placement scheme ever seen on screen. I won't blow it, but I'll never buy it at the store again.

Late in Evolution, Reitman realizes his movie is flagging, so he injects a dose of Play That Funky Music, allowing Duchovny, Jones and Jim Carrey wannabe Seann William Scott to boogie for a minute. Then, Reitman shoots himself in the foot by dragging out Dan Aykroyd's techno-doublespeak routine, reminding us how much we miss Ghostbusters.

The special effects are suitably bizarre: winged lizards, mutant insects and one giant slug with E.T.'s eyes and a Freddy Krueger tongue. Yet, we never get to know these creatures the same way we knew Slimer, Zool and, of course, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Evolution's wan script doesn't pay attention to any beast except that slug. They simply slither or swoop, get blasted, and it's back to Reitman's listless set-ups for the next cheesy barrage.

Evolution displays a common arrogance in the summer movie season that many moviegoers don't sniff until their money has been taken. Reitman is content to package a hit, matching midname stars with enough eye candy to shape a two-minute preview trailer. It's all smiley-face publicity from there. Survival of the fittest, Hollywood style. Even Darwin would wish it extinct.

Evolution

Grade: D

Director: Ivan Reitman

Cast: David Duchovny, Orlando Jones, Julianne Moore, Seann William Scott, Ted Levine, Dan Aykroyd

Screenplay: David Diamond, David Weissman, Don Jakoby

Rating: PG-13; profanity, violence, crude humor, sexual situations

Running time: 104 min.

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