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The cast of "Evolution" stares at some very expensive CGI nothingness.

© 2001 DreamWorks
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To get the most out of Evolution (IMDb listing), you must ask yourself one question: Just how much do you like Orlando Jones? The lanky, sass-mouth actor from the 7-Up commercials and the movie dud from this past winter called "Double Take," Jones sums up just what is so fundamentally wrong with Ivan Reitman's new film "Evolution." Relying so much on improvisational comedy with his co-star David Duchovny, Jones is unable to find any inspiration outside of his weak sense of humor. "Evolution" as well cannot find anything of interest outside of cracking a few jokes about the colon, and ripping off every element that people loved from "Men In Black" and "The X-Files."

When a wannabe fireman (Seann William Scott, "Dude, Where's My Car?'s") discovers an asteroid that lands in rural Arizona, he calls two community college science professors (Duchovny and Jones) in to investigate. The professors discover a blue ooze leaking from the asteroid containing alien cells that can reproduce in seconds. The government promptly takes over the site and pushes the professors aside. Soon, the alien threat is completely out of control, with aliens terrorizing Arizona suburbs without mercy. Armed with brains instead of firepower, the professors team up with a federal agent (Julianne Moore) to find out how to stop this invasion once and for all.

"Evolution" is a sci-fi comedy, and for Reitman, this material must have seemed like a slam dunk. Surely the director of "Ghostbusters can handle a little alien invasion, right? It seems not. With "Evolution," Reitman seems stuck in neutral the entire run of the film. He is unable to produce laughs from his willing cast, and the expected practice of relying on special effects to dazzle the easily distracted fails him when visual effects supervisor Phil Tippett's creations appear to be nothing more than "Men In Black" leftovers. A mighty director of a surplus of comedy classics ("Stripes," "Meatballs""), Reitman, for the first time, appears uninterested in guiding his own movie. I'm being kind when I say that "Evolution" doesn't really make much sense. Yet more disturbingly, I felt that Reitman doesn't even really care. This kind of deadbeat dad vibe is all over "Evolution," from the aforementioned unsuccessful improv to the predictably overblown climax. Even with "Father's Day" on his resume (a film that I will go on the record as having enjoyed), "Evolution" could easily stand as his worse film to date.

Written by David Diamond, David Weissman, and Don Jakoby ("John Carpenter's Vampires"), it's a real curiosity just why David Duchovny took a role in this film. The script is "X-Files" lite, with Orlando Jones standing in for Gillian Anderson's Agent Scully. Duchovny, who made such headway in his quest to avoid typecasting with his romantic turn in Bonnie Hunt's enchanting "Return To Me," takes a great step backwards with "Evolution." He's a Stan Laurel to the computer effects' Oliver Hardy, and his performance plainly shows some awkwardness in tackling a character that eventually amounts to "Mulder in community college." Though he does create a nice brotherhood with co-star Jones, their buddy patter is indescribably bad. It's the type of dialog and ad-libbing that wouldn't even fly on "Nash Bridges," much less a gigantically-budgeted feature film. Duchovny is a much better actor that "Evolution" allows, and I hope he can live this one down.

I can see the appeal of comedy luring Julianne Moore to "Evolution," but her dim-bulb act is beneath her. I guess it's a relief that Seann William Scott is there to pick up the pieces with his dim-bulb act, but he is another actor who desperately needs a career make-over. Nothing is really asked of the actors besides reacting to the scope and menace of the special effects. Inadvertently, comedy finally does come to the film when the actors' reactions do not entirely match the effects placed into the film months later. Ironically, David Duchovny has it the worse (you would think he'd be used to it by now). During a mall-rampage set piece with a winged beast terrorizing shoppers, Duchovny can only muster a mild reaction as if he just saw someone spill their blue-raspberry Icee. His response doesn't remotely complement the mayhem appearing on-screen.

In the end, does it even matter to ask for simple logic? The asteroid that crashes on earth is never clarified, and the aliens' modus operandi remains a mystery long after the film ends. The picture seems more like an elaborate set-up for ass gags and a huge product plug for Head & Shoulders shampoo (don't ask). This is not the authoritative Ivan Reitman that I know and love. This is an Ivan Reitman aiming for the bulls-eye with a "sure fire" sci-fi comedy smash. He neglected to turn off the auto-pilot.

Filmfodder Grade: D+

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