June 7, 2001 (UPI) -- "Evolution" is an enjoyable enough alien-invasion comedy thriller that kept the preview audience laughing. It also scored well on the Mrs. Sailer Scream-O-Meter, as my wife unleashed three piercing shrieks into my right eardrum.
"Evolution's" DNA traces back to "Men in Black," "Independence Day," "Tremors," "The Andromeda Strain," "The Blob," and countless other hits. Its script occasionally evolves past its market-tested ancestors, but these mutations don't make much sense.
Not that director Ivan Reitman (of "Ghostbusters" fame) cares. He just keeps eliciting from the audience Big Yucks - both amused and nauseated. In fact, the romantic kiss at the end, as the innards of the exploded monster rain down on the osculating lovers, is one of the yuckiest in years.
So, forget logic - but not your Pepto-Bismol - and you'll have a fun time.
David Duchovny (of TV's "The X Files") and Orlando Jones (of various 7-Up commercials) portray science teachers at a community college in the scenic boondocks of
Northern Arizona. They discover that a newly crashed meteorite is oozing blue goo. Duchovny takes a sample back to his office, where it begins rapidly evolving into ever more complex and dangerous creatures.
In contrast to Duchovny's worrywart extraterrestrial examiner on "X Files," here his alien investigator is nonchalant to the point of being a menace to the human race.
In this kind of movie, our rebellious, multicultural scientist heroes are supposed to repeatedly warn the Evil-Middle-Aged-White-Male-Authority-Figures of the dangers posed by the aliens (or Great White Shark, volcano, killer bees, or whatever). But, the Authority Figures, for Evil-Middle-Aged-White-Male reasons, always ignore them until it's almost too late.
In "Evolution," however, Duchovny and Jones play arrogant, mercenary idiots who try to keep their world-imperiling discovery secret so they won't have any competition for the Nobel Prize.
When the U.S. Army general bad guy arrives, he intelligently slams a containment dome over the meteorite and seizes the good guys' samples. Our heroes then take the Army to court to get their genocidal germs back!
Obviously, this plot line is a dead end. So, halfway through the movie, with no attempt at explanation, the good guys simply reverse course 180 degrees and become the shotgun-packing alien hunters we expected all along.
The performances by Duchovny and Jones reflect a degree of commitment to communicating raw emotional truth seldom seen since the last installment of the Bing Crosby-Bob Hope "Road" movies. In a performance reminiscent of Der Bingle when he was late for a tee-time at
Lakeside, Duchovny, a former Yale Ph.D. candidate, convincingly persuades us that he finds the movie intellectually unworthy of him.
The manic Bob Hope part goes to Jones, the wide-eyed black comic best known for his commercials as the clueless Marketing Guy promoting the unfortunately phrased slogan "Make 7-Up Yours." When a big alien bug invades his colon, Jones gets to show off more of his patented brand of sphincterocentric comedy. Just as the wateriness of "The Perfect Storm" induced long lines for movie theatre urinals, you'll want to skip "Evolution" if you are suffering any intestinal discomfort.
Rounding out the cast, Oscar-nominee Julianne Moore (last seen in "
") plays the Beautiful Lady Scientist, a role that apparently hasn't evolved much since 1954's "Creature from the Black Lagoon." Hannibal
The most interesting question about "Evolution" is whether the title will turn off the large fraction of the population that claims not to believe in evolution.
Of course, "Evolution's" brand of evolution has nothing to do with Charles Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection. Instead, the movie offers a supercharged version of 18th Century naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck's conjecture that giraffes have long necks because their ancestors stretched their necks trying to reach higher leaves. In "Evolution," the space monsters struggle to adapt to life on earth, then give birth to babies more fit to survive than themselves. According to
, though, parental effort doesn't cause evolution. Instead, organisms lucky enough to be born with favorable traits leave more descendents, who tend to inherit those useful features. Darwin
In a recent Gallup Poll, 47% agreed that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so."
Yet, how seriously that 47% take this strict form of Creationism when they aren't answering opinion polls isn't clear. While the Institute for Creation Research denounced "
's" dinosaurs as "propaganda for evolution," it's unlikely their logic will hurt "Jurassic Park III's" opening weekend grosses next month. Jurassic Park
Evolution only strikes out with the public when its more fanatical backers force it into a mano-a-mano death match against the Almighty. Most Americans seem willing to accept evolution as long as they can believe in something besides evolution. Similarly, many moviegoers will be able to tolerate "Evolution" because they know that "Evolution," thank God, isn't all that's out there.
Rated PG-13 for toilet and sex humor.
October 5, 2007
Continuing my series of reviews of the cinematic dregs of 2001 (I had already posted my reviews of the well-known movies of 2001 -- such as Black Hawk Down, Shrek, and Training Day -- years ago, but hadn't gotten around to these flicks, here's "Evolution:"