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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Evolution

Starring: David Duchovny, Orlando Jones
Director: Ivan Reitman
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 104 Minutes
Release Date: June 2001
Genres: Comedy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Ted Levine, Wayne Duvall, Katharine Towne, Julianne Moore, Seann W. Scott, Sarah Silverman, Dan Aykroyd, Sarah Silverman, Ethan Suplee

Review by Dustin Putman
2 stars out of 4

In an attempt to rehash the formula he hit gold with in 1984, director Ivan Reitman's "Evolution" plays out like a present-day version of "Ghostbusters," replacing ghosts with fast-evolving aliens. While all of the stock characters are present, as well as similar plot developments, the film is absent of anything remotely witty or original. Tellingly, the jokes fly fast and furious throughout, but the number of comedic moments that actually work can be counted on one hand.

The movie opens with slacker Wayne Green (Seann William Scott) out in the middle of the Arizona desert practicing for his impending test to become a firefighter, when a giant meteor crashes to earth. Hot on the case is college professors Ira Kane (David Duchovny) and Harry Block (Orlando Jones), who discover that the meteorite has unleashed a number of single-celled alien organisms that are growing, and multiplying, at a rapid rate. Before long, these gradually growing creatures have begun to take over the sleepy town, and if Ira, Harry, and Wayne, with the added help of clumsy Dr. Allison Reed (Julianne Moore), don't find a way to stop them, it will mean the extinction of mankind within two months.

The idea behind "Evolution"--that of quick-producing aliens irresolutely taking over earth--is not a particularly new one ("Gremlins," anyone?), but it has enough promise that it's too bad screenwriters David Diamond, David Weissman, and Don Jakoby botch the results. Originally conceived as a serious sci-fi picture, my guess is once director Reitman came aboard, he had a little something to do with its switch in genres. On the basis of what has shown up onscreen, it was the wrong choice. While "Ghostbusters" was able to mix scares with laughs, "Evolution" falls flat on both counts, and ends up being uninspired.

Reitman has appointed an impressive cast, but all of the actors have done far stronger work. In fact, most of the performances leave something to be desired. David Duchovny (2000's "Return to Me") toplines the film as Ira Kane, a science professor who once worked with the government, and he's a genuine bore. In too many of Duchovny's big-screen roles, he is a good-looking face vacant of a personality. Seann William Scott (2000's "Dude, Where's My Car?") repeats the same type of character he has played in every movie on his resume (including 1999's "American Pie"), and does little else. And Julianne Moore (2001's "Hannibal") is woefully misused as Dr. Allison Reed, a cute klutz whose main character trait is that she falls down and runs into doors a lot. Moore is so much better than what this weak material provides. Only Orlando Jones (2001's "Say It Isn't So") stands out as Harry Block, who knows very well when things get dangerous that black men are the first to go in these situations. Jones is a comic delight, and his appearance is superior to anything else here.

"Evolution" isn't a total washout, but it is an overall waste of time. There is nothing offered that hasn't been done better in other movies, and at 97 minutes (including credits), it's over just as its momentum has begun to build. Not helping matters is that the entire first half is slow and generally monotonous, as tension escalates--to nothing. Reitman may have wanted to make a "Ghostbusters" for the new millennium, but what he has done with "Evolution," instead, is made a low-rent version of "Men in Black."

Copyright 2001 Dustin Putman

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