Once again we have a high-profile director behind the scenes of yet another big-budget sci-fi effects show. Once again, Ivan Reitman tries to Xerox his classic Ghsotbusters motif into something resembling a "new idea". And once again, the overblown and ultimately uninvolving special effects overshadow some actors working pretty damn hard. I suppose a filmmaker can't be blamed for going to the well once too often. When Ivan Reitman signs on to direct an expensive "summer movie", it's only logical that the studio would shoot for Ghostbusters-like box office numbers. Unfortunately, Evolution comes off more like a thinly- disguised sequel than something new and original.
Aside from a few funny sequences and a handful of winning performances, there's basically nothing of note to be found in Evolution. The creepy-crawly alien effects are colorful enough to hold your interest...but then again, so is your average screen saver. Things have improved a bit recently, but Evolution seems firmly stuck in that "cool FX = good movie" mindset so prevalent a few years back. As the film opens, we see a dagger-shaped meteor crash down in the Arizona desert. The first one to come across the artifact is Wayne Gray, a goofy young man training to become a firefighter. Wayne contacts two professors from the local community college, Ira Kane and Harry Block. After doing some initial tests on the meteor, the doctors discover that the rock contains biological life forms. And of course these life forms are growing! The army quickly swoops in and takes over the crash site, while Ira and Harry quickly find themselves out of the loop.
That's when Ghostbusters 3 kicks in.
Technical merits are a mixed bag, at best. While many of the more elaborate creatures are indeed fun to look at, the way in which the aliens are utilized (particularly in the disgusting and unfunny conclusion) is nothing short of criminal. One scene in which a gaggle of housewives discover an E.T. goes literally nowhere, and the "big" monster scenes come off like deleted scenes from Jurassic Park 2. Huge editing gaffes abound, and the pace shifts from light and breezy to loud and violent without warning.
What saves Evolution from being unwatchable is its surprisingly entertaining cast. As Dr. Kane, David Duchovny is very dry and much funnier than you'd probably expect. Orlando Jones gets most of the movie's best lines and proves that he can indeed be as funny in a movie as he is in those 7-Up commercials. (Duchovny and Jones strike up an amicable chemistry onscreen.) As the CDC agent in charge of the project, Julianne Moore seems to be having some fun cast against type. It's always a hoot to see an esteemed AK-TOR doing silly pratfalls and double takes, and Moore proves to have a solid sense of humor. Seann William Scott essentially reprises his 'sarcastic surfer-guy' persona from his earlier films, but manages some goofy charm.
In smaller (and only intermittently entertaining) roles, Ted Levine, Dan Aykroyd and Ethan Suplee manage to add some color to the proceedings as well, but ultimately Evolution is a movie about slimy CGI-animated aliens. No amount of witty banter or charisma can do battle with a 5,000-pound intergalactic slime slug. And that's too bad, because the best things about Evolution are the plain old humans and the funny things they say. Cut out all the goopy, expensive alien stuff and replace it with more character scenes and dialogue, I bet you'd have a damn good comedy.
As far as 'popcorn flicks' go, you could certainly do a lot worse. The flick moves along quickly and the entire cast gives it their all, but the project is hampered by its massive effects. We KNOW Hollywood can create slimy aliens ad nauseum, but who knew that David Duchovny could be so FUNNY?
Reprinted from eFilmCritic.com -- November, 2001