2001, PG-13, 102 min. Directed by Ivan Reitman. Starring David Duchovny, Julianne Moore, Orlando Jones, Seann William Scott, Ted Levine, Ethan Suplee.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., June 8, 2001

It's baffling that the same comic mind that directed Meatballs, Ghostbusters, and Dave could have coughed up this underachieving and so very un-comic sci-fi spoof … but then Ivan Reitman also made Father's Day -- a film that managed to make you forget Robin Williams and Billy Crystal were two of the funniest men alive. Evolution begins with a meteor careening toward Earth, which lands in the middle of Arizona and creates a 100-foot hole. A couple of community college professors, Ira and Harry (Duchovny and Jones), are sent to investigate the site, and there they stumble across what they know is Nobel Prize material: The meteor has spawned single-cell organisms, which quickly evolve into multicell organisms, which happen to contain a couple more strands of DNA than anything on Earth has ever produced. Jackpot, right? That is, until the organisms turn into big ole nasty man-eating things in a number of days (they've compressed evolution from billions of years to a matter of weeks, and the growing pains haven't sat well with the lip-licking aliens). The government storms in and generally bungles the whole affair, but they do bring along the comely yet perpetually pratfalling director of the Centers for Disease Control, played by Julianne Moore. She and Ira fall fast for each other, set to the backdrop of an Arizona rapidly reduced to fish food for the aliens. It's really a very good premise for some goofball antics in the spirit of Ghostbusters (you don't get much goofier than a team of schleps who earn a living by hunting down the boogey man). But while the story is there, Evolution is missing two things that were crucial to Ghostbusters' success: humor and charisma. At every turn in Evolution, those two elements let each other down. The jokes just aren't there, which makes it very hard for the stars -- who are trying very, very hard -- to really make a dent. But then, truly gifted funnymen and -women have accomplished much more while working with much less. Evolution's feeble funny bone may be exceedingly lame, but delivered by actors more comedically skilled, they might have been pulled off against all odds. Duchovny is too flat-faced; Moore too earnest (she gets a laugh every time she falls down or hits her head, but really, how hard is it to score a laugh making an ass out of yourself?); and Seann William Scott (one of the kids from Dude, Where's My Car?) is just a little too “Duuuuude” as a wannabe firefighter. 7-Up pitchman Orlando Jones (late of some very bad movies) does try gamely, and he gets the closest to tickling the ribs, but the material he's given is lousy with yawns, not yuks. Even a cameo by Dan Aykroyd can't liven things up … but then, his career seems to have taken much the same trajectory as Reitman's (and yes, that includes Aykroyd's wincing attempts to go arthouse). And to add insult to injury (and money from the pockets of a certain, prominent grooming aid), Evolution includes one of the more egregious examples of manufacturing a plot to service a product placement I've seen in a while. Call me sentimental, but I don't remember being that offended when it was the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man.

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Evolution, Ivan Reitman, David Duchovny, Julianne Moore, Orlando Jones, Seann William Scott, Ted Levine, Ethan Suplee

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