Evolution Movie Review

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Director Ivan Reitman goes rummaging around in his "Ghostbusters" bag of tricks to give his new comedy "Evolution" all the trappings of a major laugh fest -- but the one thing he forgot was the major laughs.

Until the picture hits a slight stride about half way through, its few weak snickers come mostly from knowing winks at the intentional irony of David Duchovny starring in what is, for all practical purposes, a spoof of "The X-Files."

Duchovny and Orlando Jones ("Say It Isn't So," "Double Take") star as quack professors at an Arizona community college who discover living microbes on a meteor that crashes to Earth near their campus. Flush with scientific exhilaration, they soon realize these lifeforms are evolving at an exponential rate. In a day they've become multi-celled organisms. Hours later they're extraterrestrial worms. By the time the military inevitably shows up to take control and kick the professors off their own project, full-blown insects and reptilian critters have appeared.

Well, I think we all know where this is going. But predictability isn't the problem. Nor is the fact that the plot seems like little more than a rejiggered "Ghostbusters" -- right down to the sexy student flirting for extra credit in one professor's introductory scene and the goop-doused finale, in which unconventional science saves the day after an government surrogate makes things much worse with his arrogant ineptitude.

The problem is that the movie's multiplying, overly-F/X-y CGI beasts show more signs of life than the script or the actors.

Duchovny, Jones, and the former art flick habitue Julianne Moore (who plays a Center for Disease Control researcher) seem to be having fun on the set, yet their performances are sadly listless. Reitman seems to have left them to their own devices except when lobbing comedic nothings. He practically pauses for rim-shots after duds like Jones expressing surprise by hollering "Great googa mooga!"

He does the same thing for clumsy running gags (Moore trips and falls a lot) and lame wisecracks as well. "This looks like the kitchen from my first apartment," Jones says when entering the soupy, primordial jungle that has cropped up around the meteor only a couple days after its discovery. If this movie was a Vaudeville act, it would get the hook in its first 20 minutes.

As a result, "Evolution" hardly evolves at all. The action and the energy level pick up a bit once the military decides to napalm the network of underground caves where the now full-formed aliens are breeding (over the nonspecific objections of Duchovny, Jones and Moore, who then have to save the day). But until then the movie is little more than a patchwork of random scenes in suburbs, country clubs and malls in which various critters attack, followed by our heroes arriving to analyze the situation. Aside from the occasional one-liner, that's about all they do.

If it's "Alienbusters" you're looking for, look to "Men In Black" instead, because when it comes to survival of the fittest in the arena of extraterrestrial pest control comedies, "Evolution" will go the way of the dodo after a short life of being kicked around by this summer's bigger hits.

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Evolution Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, Opened: Friday, June 8, 2001

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