“Private Parts”, “Road Trip”, “Dave”, “Twins” – as a producer Ivan Reitman is still a pretty strong filmmaker and while all those aforementioned films aren’t going to change the world they were still darn funny. As a director though, he’s been in a dry patch over the last decade with the only exception being the pretty good 1993 film “Dave”.
Now comes along “Evolution” which is quite frankly equal to “Junior” as the worst film he’s ever put out, certainly a lowlight of the year. As much as “Pearl Harbor” is being decried for its hokeiness and weak love story, even that has about half and hour of engaging footage – that’s more than what’s in this unfunny Mars Attacks/Ghostbusters style horror comedy.
What makes it such a disappointment is how such good actors and filmmakers could come up with a film that makes “Big Momma’s House” seem like the height of witty humour. Sci-fi comedy is a genre hard to do at even the best of times yet the Brits are able to do it consistently in the sitcom “Red Dwarf”, and whilst its more supernatural than extraterrestrial, Reitman’s “Ghostbusters” films were both great fun and very watchable (the first being a classic, the second a decent follow-up).
Here the problem is the jokes are VERY setup, can be seen coming from outer space with the naked eye, and are just – quite frankly stinkers. In a room full of about 35 people I was watching the film with, only two laughed at about one or two points in the film whilst everyone else was dead silent. Duchovny’s much heralded mooning scene is a good example – coming off as a desperate attempt to grab a laugh (in a better context a mooning could be funny, here its just awkward). Others ranging from the argument with his ex-wife in a cafe, too the “Play that Funky Music White Boy” dance scene are both not just not funny but add zip to the story – just thrown in there to fill time.
The story concept is quite imaginative and full of possibility, yet its squandered at every turn. As a treatment this would’ve sounded spectacular, as a script though it contains some utterly atrocious dialogue, flat characters and as stated before – uncountable attempts to elicit laughs that fail miserably. A poor script is one thing and while it;s a crushing blow to a film, it’s not the be all and end all. What really drives the daggers in here are the way such great talents give arguably their worst performances ever with only Orlando Jones coming off with any credibility.
Moore’s stumbling CDC scientist is forgettable which I’m thankful for as it saves her reputation from being dragged down by the role when people remember her, whilst the underrated and very talented Seann William Scott whose shown some good variations in the roles he’s done so far does OK – thus this is his weakest role yet. Then there’s Duchovny whose fine during certain moments, but again proves he really made a bad decision leaving TV as aside from maybe a cameo in “Working Girl”, his film career has been in the doggie bag. Thankfully “Evolution” isn’t as bad as “Playing God” – but not far off mind you.
Still, even the FX aren’t a saving grace here. The various beasties have been imaginatively created but look way too CG for words, especially toward “The Blob” remake the film’s end becomes. There’s a cute ‘Slimmer’ style puppy one with a hell of a tongue, and a thing in a pool cleaner which did make me jump but otherwise its rather “eeh!”.
As for the solution they come up with to stop the aliens, well whilst the ‘delivery’ scene manages about one laugh the actual solution makes the ID4 computer virus seem inspired in comparison. It has been a long time since I saw a film at the movies that basically caused me to have a migraine by the movie’s end, but this broke the drought.
Fizzers this year like “Josie & The Pussycats” and “The Tailor of Panama” were bad films, but even these at least tried to be different and interesting and gave us a few laughs. “Evolution” tries too hard at drilling the same old base material – it attempts to satirise the genre but forgot two important elements, wit & intelligence. A shocker considering it comes from both a great cast & crew and Dreamworks who’ve now produced both the highlight (“Shrek”) and this – the lowlight of the Summer thus far.