Evolution

"Oh no, I've seen this movie, the black dude dies first. You snag one."

Evolution, the snarky new alien invasion comedy from Ghostbusters‘ Ivan Reitman, resembles the ever-popular Men in Black in plot and structure, but that’s where the similarities end. It won’t make as much money as the Will Smith blockbuster, but it’s a much better movie: less arrogant, less enamored with its special effects, and infinitely more clever. The advertising for the film announced that the aliens are coming to “wipe that silly smile off [our] planet;” quite the contrary, though I suspect that some critics are giving Evolution negative reviews just so they can oh-so-cleverly twist the tagline to apply to the movie.

David Duchovny heads up the winning cast as science Professor Ira Kane of the Glen Canyon community college. He is called to investigate when local aspiring firefighter (Seann William Scott) sees a meteor crash down from the sky and make a big hole in the ground. With him comes Harry Block (Orlando Jones), a geology professor from Glend Canyon and a member of the US Geological Survey. They make an amazing discovery — millions of single-celled organisms that could only have come from another world. They take a sample back, only to find that the single-celled organisms have turned multicellular without so much as a warning, and are continuing to grow and divide.

When Ira and Harry return to the scene, they discover that the US army has appropriated the meteor. Among the men and women in uniform is Dr. Allison Reed (Julianne Moore), a government scientist in charge of the investigation. Ira and Harry get short-shrifted, with a perfuctory promise to “keep them in the loop.” But when they see that the aliens are evolving into bigger and more menacing creatures — some of them looking like dinosaurs, others like sad E.T.’s, but all equally dangerous — and that all the government wants to do is wipe them out, they decide to take matters into their own hands.

Duchovny, who bit the hand that fed him by making a showy exit from the alien-themed tv show The X-Files, is again dealing with extra-terrestrials and an obsessively secretive government, though, of course, in a very different context. He’s the best thing about this movie; his deadpan style humor fits perfectly into the general tone of the proceedings, and there is genuine chemistry between him and his co-stars. I’m not convinced of Duchovny’s range (though Return to Me was an impressive start), but there’s no question that he and otherworldly beings always make a good match-up.

The movie was directed by Ivan Reitman, the veteran who has done nothing but comedies (with the possible exception of Six Days, Seven Nights), and it has a penchant for the gleefully weird as well as the vulgar. There is no other way explain a scene in which an alien worm implants itself in Orlando Jones’s body and the doctor, planning to take it out through the, um, anal cavity, says offhandedly that “there’s no time for lubricant.” The response by the beleaguered patient? “There’s always time for lubricant!”

Evolution is not terribly consistent: there are cliches and failed gags, and the ending is disappointing. But when it works, it works. It looks like the movie has failed at the box-office — not terribly surprising considering the lack of name-above-the-title stars and the bizarro marketing campaign — and it’s a real shame.

-- Eugene Novikov

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Screening Log

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Ric Roman Waugh, 2013

Score: C

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Score: C+

10 Years

Jamie Linden, 2012

Score: B-

The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance, 2013

Score: B+

Warm Bodies

Jonathan Levine, 2013

Score: C

Beautiful Creatures

Richard LaGravanese, 2013

Score: B-

The Window

Ted Tetzlaff, 1949

Score: B+

The Chase

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Score: B

Street of Chance

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Score: C

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Im Sang-Soo, 2013

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