K-Pax

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K-Pax

Two of the most intellectually dishonest, repellent subgenres of recent times meet with disastrous results in K-Pax, a Pay It Forward-like exercise in audience manipulation masquerading as feel-good family entertainment. Calculatingly crossbreeding the bad-dad redemption movie (in which a father must learn to put his family before his career) with the frequently Robin Williams-powered life-affirming-stranger movie (in which a pixie-like outsider teaches folks to enjoy life), K-Pax stars Jeff Bridges as a psychiatrist who might not be spending enough time with his family. Of course, by the unsparing standards of the bad-dad redemption movie, anything less than staying up until the wee hours of the morning knitting girl-scout uniforms is considered delinquent parenting, so Bridges' chief crime here seems to be not calling his grown son often enough. Redemption arrives, however, in the form of Kevin Spacey, a beatific mental patient who may or may not be a super-intelligent alien from the planet K-Pax. As Bridges attempts to solve the mystery of Spacey's origins, the latter sets about improving the lives of his fellow mental patients, a familiar gang of one-note kooks who would seem like refuges from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest even if their ranks didn't include a highly symbolic non-white catatonic. Spacey and Bridges are great actors, but neither turns in much of a performance here. Bridges sleepwalks through a role that doesn't deserve any better—don't be surprised if deleted scenes on the eventual DVD show him prescribing himself massive doses of tranquilizers—while Spacey turns in the sort of glib, coasting-on-charisma star turn that he's largely avoided so far. For all its talk of the glory of being alive, K-Pax reduces human beings to mere props, useful only in their ability to help a wealthy, handsome man appreciate his charmed life.