Mark Reviews Movies

EVOLUTION

2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Ivan Reitman

Cast: David Duchovny, Orlando Jones, Ted Levine, Julianne Moore, Seann William Scott, Dan Aykroyd

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for crude and sexual humor, and for sci-fi action)

Running Time: 1:43

Release Date: 6/8/01


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Review by Mark Dujsik

I wonder exactly how the writing sessions for Evolution went. Did they receive the premise, get together, and come up with a bunch of things they thought would be funny and attempt to throw it all together? The key words there are "thought would be funny," because the result is essentially completely unfunny.

The opening scene involves a firefighter in training (Seann William Scott) who drives out to the middle of nowhere to an abandoned shack to practice. He pours gasoline inside the shack with a dummy inside and lights it on fire. Is this safe, practical, or funny? No. Moments after reviving the dummy, a meteor crashes into his car. Next, we meet two professors at a local community college. Ian Kane (David Duchovny) teaches science and Harry Block (Orlando Jones) is a scientist at the same college who also coaches the female volleyball team. Block finds out about the meteor and decides to take Kane along. At the site, the police are suspicious about Dwayne, the firefighter, and his dummy. Is this funny? Not really. Kane and Block study the meteor and when they return to the college, discover single-cell organisms that are dividing quite rapidly.

From here, the army becomes involved and restricts Kane and Blockís access to the site. By this time, the single-cell organisms have become multi-cell organisms and are slowly evolving into creatures we will see throughout the movie. We have also met the clumsy Dr. Reed (Julianne Moore). Every time she appears on screen, some pratfall results. Does this ever grow funny? Not at all. Well, once the creatures start getting mean, Kane, Block, Dwayne, and Reed become more involved in trying to destroy them.

The movie is a series of sight-gags and situations, each one evolving to become grosser and much less funny. I doubt itís a coincidence that Ivan Reitman directed this. The movie echoes his Ghostbusters, and Iím sure it would be fun to watch both back-to-back to see exactly how similar they are. Thereís the ragtag team of misfits who no one thinks can succeed. There are the weird creatures that the ragtag team of misfits chase. There is a group of professionals who come up with the wrong solution to the problem, while the ragtag team of misfits discovers the correct one. Finally, thereís a big creature that the ragtag team of misfits must defeat to save the world.

Beyond the obvious inspiration and similarities, Evolution doesnít have any full scenes of originality or wit. There are occasional moments where some humor occurs, most of it from Orlando Jones. In fact, he has the only really funny scene in the movie. Through some freak occurrence, one of the creatures finds its way into Blockís suit and eventually into his body. He is rushed to an operating room, where the doctor sees the creature crawling through his leg. They want to amputate, but Block thinks heís an athlete. Eventually, the creature gets into his intestines and the doctor sees a way to get it with the following exchange:

    DOCTOR: Weíll have to go in rectally.

    NURSE: Lubricant?

    DOCTOR: Thereís no time.

    BLOCK: Thereís always time for lubricant!

Yes, this scene is completely tasteless, but itís still very funny. Jonesí looks as the procedure progresses show why he is the only person in this movie to consistently get smiles.

As for the rest of the cast, David Duchovny shows some variation on his usual monotone, quiet, and melancholy persona. Here he is monotone, quiet, and cheery. He shows the possibility of comedic potential if he gets better material. Seann William Scottís face makes me laugh. He always has the strangest look, but for some reason, he isnít used right. Julianne Moore is reduced to falling and sounding smart, and Iím sure with a better character, she could do much more.

The rest of the jokes lack punch lines or appropriate setup. For example, the victims of the creatures should deserve their punishment. The only crime the single character who is obviously killed commits is complaining about a damp towel. One woman who is carried away by a flying creature is in the act of shoplifting. The result of the scare: "Iíll never shoplift again." This isnít a good setup, and itís a lame and predictable result. Besides the one funny scene, there are many more instances of gross-out humor.

While Jones may have the funny scene, he is also in the strangest and most disturbing one. It involves a ladder, a fire hose, and the giant (How can I put this delicately?) end of the big creature. This is what the entire movie has led up to. That alone should say more about the quality of Evolution than anything else.

Copyright © 2001 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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