“Evolution,” the new science-fiction comedy from director Ivan Reitman, is preoccupied with childish humor. So when a group of amateur scientists out to save the world from an alien invasion encounter the sphincter of a massive alien blob, you just know something nasty is going to happen. It does.

evolutionLike the giant alien fart that follows, “Evolution” stinks. It’s one wasted opportunity after another, a noxious bag of gas pretending to be popular entertainment. It’s a big dumb movie that gets bigger and dumber until it can longer sustain its own weight. Then it comes crashing down like a cinematic Hindenburg. Unless you leave right after the opening credits there’s no way you can avoid getting burned.

The premise is full of promise, but it’s a promise the filmmakers can’t keep. There’s nothing original or funny in “Evolution,” a big-budget popcorn movie that fails to pop. It’s more like that uncooked kernel at the bottom of the kettle. You sit there, waiting patiently for it to pop, but it never does. It’s a dud.

That pretty much sums up “Evolution,” a 100-minute exercise in futility. The first problem is the derivative screenplay by Don Jakoby, David Diamond, and David Weissman. Filled with flat characters, dumb dialogue and uninspired action, “Evolution” emerges as nothing more than an alien rip-off of “Ghostbusters.

Adding insult to injury is Reitman’s utter lack of direction. You would think that the director of “Ghostbusters” and “Stripes” would be able to infuse a little fun into this mess, but no. Reitman’s been down this road before, so maybe he did this one on cruise control. Big mistake. If any film needed someone behind the wheel, it’s “Evolution.”

How else can you explain why this film is all over the map? It wants to be funny, but it’s not. It wants to be exciting, but it’s not. It wants to be amazing, but the only amazing thing about “Evolution” is that it’s so bad. Even the actors seem lost, desperately looking for an exit. There are no pardons in this house of the damned.

You really feel for the cast, who run around like chickens with their heads cut off. David Duchovny and Orlando Jones star as two Arizona Glen Canyon Community College professors. Ira Kane (Duchovny) is so bored with his job that he hands out blanket A’s to his class. Harry Block (Jones) isn’t far behind, but has side pursuits that keep him busy, including acting as a local representative of the U.S. Geological Survey.

When Block and Kane are asked to examine an asteroid that has landed outside town, they see it as their ticket out of Glen Canyon. Their hopes are raised when they discover an alien ooze that seems to take on a life of its own. Literally. It’s not long before the ooze starts to evolve, and the military steps in to contain the situation.

Julianne Moore plays a scientist with the Center for Disease Control, who catches the eye of Kane when she’s not tripping over her own shadow. The joke is funny once, yet the writers and Reitman insist on dragging it out. You really feel sorry for Moore, who deserves better. Seann William Scott (“Dude, Where’s My Car?”) plays to type as the fourth member of the team, a country club pool manager who dreams of becoming a firefighter.

All of their performances are larger than life, a defense against the film’s larger-than-life special effects. They’re not acting. They’re pretending, and not once do you believe them or the predicament they’re in. The supporting characters are cartoonish types like the military leader who refuses to believe the amateur scientists even when the proof is staring him in the face, or the two brain dead, hefty students who come up with the only logical solution to the problem.

If “Evolution” is supposed to be a spoof of similar big budget summer fare, it fails. There’s nothing remotely tongue-in-cheek about any of this. The jokes are obvious and occasionally painful. Logic is the farthest thing from the writer’s minds. They obviously could care less that none of this makes any sense. It’s an insult to anyone with half a brain, which would be 50% more than the writers and director exercised in making this film.

The special effects aren’t really special, and since that’s all “Evolution” has going for it, you’re not left with much except the feeling that you’ve been ripped off. What the film lacks is sharp wit and a self-depreciating sense of humor. What it needs is the acerbic and wry wit of Harold Ramis, who co-wrote and co-starred in both “Ghostbusters” and “Stripes.” Ramis understands the mechanics of comedy, and could have given this old jalopy a tune up.


Big, dumb movie evolves into bigger, dumber movie


David Duchovny, Julianne Moore, Orlando Jones, Seann William Scott, Ted Levine, Dan Aykroyd. Directed by Ivan Reitman. Rated PG-13. 101 Minutes.


Comments are closed.