Evolution

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Evolution

For genre-straddling films like Evolution, it might be smart to implement a policy of self-labeling before public demand forces the issue. It would be good to know in advance how the resources (budgetary and otherwise) of, say, a science-fiction comedy like Evolution got divvied up. For example, Men In Black divided its energies fairly evenly between comedy and effects-heavy action sequences, while an educated guess would put Evolution at about 90 percent special effects, with the remainder sprinkled toward other concerns. What else could explain a comedy with so much to see and so little to laugh at? In the film's opening, an asteroid plunges into the northern Arizona desert, carrying with it a living liquid that evolves into higher life forms over the course of hours rather than centuries. And, in case anyone should find that premise confusing, the film pauses to reiterate it in virtually every other scene. Playing a community-college biology professor, David Duchovny does most of the reiterating, and he seems appropriately bored by the repetition. His deadpan acting style hasn't seemed so close to contempt for the material since his late-run appearances on X-Files, and his renewed obligation to sort through mouthfuls of fuzzy pseudo-science doesn't help. Maybe he simply forgot where he was. Abetting him are manic geologist Orlando Jones, dumb guy du jour Seann William Scott, and pretty scientist Julianne Moore. Moore's limited role—the only business the film can think to assign her is falling down and bumping into things—speaks directly to Evolution's bankruptcy of ideas. Director Ivan Reitman went down this road before in Ghostbusters, and with much less success in Ghostbusters 2, which opted to run the treads off the ideas of its predecessor. Evolution plays like a sequel to itself, revealing its desperation in both its seen-it-before gags (don't miss the dumb fat guys) and its dependence on budget-bursting special effects. On that front, the Phil Tippett-designed creatures look impressive individually, but they're disconnected from each other, as if Tippett simply collected ideas (an apeman here, a flying dragon there) left over from other films. Then there's the ass issue. From Jones' one-liners to an invasive procedure necessitated by a parasitic insect to a creature that looks like a walking bottom to a climax involving a giant space anus, Evolution displays a fixation on the function and uses of the rear end not usually seen outside of gay porno. By the film's conclusion, the obsession seems all too appropriate.