Friday, June 15, 2012

"Evolution" (2001)

Starring David Duchovny, Orlando Jones and Julianne Moore
Written by David Diamond, David Weissman and Don Jakoby
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Rated PG-13 - Language, crude humor, mild violence
Running Time: 101 Minutes

After a meteor crashes in the desert in Arizona, two local scientists, Dr. Ira Kane (David Duchovny) and community college geology professor Harry Block investigate.  What they find intrigues them: the meteor seems to be "bleeding" some kind of organic material, which itself appears to evolve and adapt at an astonishing rate.

Soon enough, the United States military has taken over the crash site and squeezed Harry and Ira out.  The project is run by General Russell Woodman (Ted Levine), who holds a grudge against Ira for an incident years prior when Ira was a government scientist, and Dr. Allison Reed (Julianne Moore) a clumsy but attractive scientist who finds herself attracted to Ira.  Meanwhile, wannabe firefighter Wayne Grey (Seann William Scott) discovers that the creatures are spreading after one of them kills his boss at a local golf course.  He takes the creature's body to Harry and Ira, who determine that the aliens can't exist in our atmosphere, but it's only a matter of time before they evolve to breathe our air.

With the military unwilling to listen to them, Harry, Ira, Wayne and Allison must figure out how to destroy the creatures before they spread beyond Arizona to the rest of the world.

Ivan Reitman tries to channel "Ghostbusters" (y'know, one of the funniest movies ever made) in this silly movie.  Likewise, Duchovny seems to be trying to channel Bill Murray as the sarcastic, somewhat detached scientist.  "Evolution" doesn't come close to "Ghostbusters" in the slightest, but it is a mildly entertaining diversion with a similar tone and feel.

"Evolution" is a bright, colorful movie that's not particularly serious.  It's rarely laugh-out-loud funny, ending up mostly just chuckle-worthy for much of its runtime.  It has a few very lively, very fun sequences, but those moments of inspired lunacy seem too few and far between.  A sequence in which Harry, Ira and Wayne fight a flying alien in a shopping mall is fun, as is a scene when an alien bug flies inside Harry's body and must be... removed.

But otherwise, "Evolution" just sort of rolls along throwing out some mildly funny lines and solid special effects work.  Certain concepts and subplots don't quite work.  Seann William Scott keeps trying to play Wayne like Stiffler, except the character isn't written that way at all, so much of his material feels flat.  The few scenes where he plays the character like the earnest firefighter are where he works best.  Likewise, Julianne Moore's character is shown to be overly clumsy - she walks into doors and trips and falls all over the place, and yet these moments are her least funny.  Her character is much more endearing during scenes where she's flirting with Ira, or a line delivered just the right way when she meets Wayne for the first time.

Much better is the chemistry between David Duchovny and Orlando Jones, who seem to share an easy friendship with each other.  They joke back and forth, and it's all very laid back and fun.  These two are probably what make "Evolution" as watchable as it is, even if it is disposable.  There are some fun cameos sprinkled throughout, as well, that liven things up.  Sarah Silverman has a silly scene in a diner as Ira's thieving ex, Ted Levine as the smarmy general, and Dan Aykroyd as the fast-talking governor of Arizona.  Ethan Suplee and Michael Bower have a few scenes as two of Ira's dumbest students who end up being rather useful later on, and they get some laughs, too.

Overall, "Evolution" is far from awesome.  At the times when it comes alive, it shows some real promise, but for much of its runtime it's just not funny enough to be more than just amusing.  It features a fine cast, and the right tone, but the script just doesn't quite make it.