'Evolution' is humorous, warped variation of 'X-Files'
By Jack Garner
Gannett News Service
As in "Ghostbusters," the day is saved by unlikely comic heroes. David Duchovny, who seems to relish the opportunity to go for laughs in an "X-Files"-type story, leads them.
Indeed, "Evolution" is very much a humorous, warped variation of an "X-Files" case:
A meteor has slammed into the desert near the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Two community college professors, Ira Kane (Duchovny) and Harry Block (Orlando Jones), arrive to investigate and quickly find tiny living organisms inside the still-smoldering rock.
With visions of Nobel prizes in their heads, they rush back to their lab and discover the organisms are dividing and multiplying like crazy. The aliens take only minutes to go through the sort of evolution it took earthly creatures millions of years to achieve.
But before Kane and Block can take any action, the government gets wind of the finding, and arrives with equipment, structures, soldiers, and a very stern attitude, to seal off the desert site.
The army brings along its own scientist, a brilliant (if very clumsy) epidemiologist, Dr. Allison Reed (Julianne Moore), who also clearly enjoys the chance to stumble her way to laughs.
And though Reed and Kane start off as adversaries, a romance develops.
The determined professors are also helped by Wayne (Seann William Scott), an amiable, but dim-witted firefighter wannabe who first got involved when the meteor nearly pulverized him in the desert.
The script only slightly exaggerates a standard cliche of visiting alien movies that the government will do everything possible to muck up the situation. Here they plan a giant napalm attack, even though our heroes know heat only accelerates the alien evolution.
The basic story clearly follows the outline of a dozen serious-if-stupid sci-fi flicks. Reitman has said he was hired to make a drama; he opted to make it a comedy.
The result is witty and entertaining, thanks to the enthusiastic comic performances by the aforementioned leads. Dan Aykroyd, one of the original "Ghostbusters," shows up for an amusing cameo as the bombastic take-charge governor.
The special effects are good, too. The best is an oh-so-cute pig-sized creature that shows up in a lady's broom closet. It turns out to be more than meets the eye.
The film earns few points for originality it's too dependent on the groundbreaking "Ghostbusters" and the edgier and more energized "Men in Black." Still, under Reitman's veteran direction, "Evolution" is a well-performed, often-funny summer-season diversion.
Rated PG-13, with crude humor, comic monster violence.
Jack Garner of the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle is chief film reviewer for Gannett News Service.