Evolution (PG)

Review by Jack Foley


YOU could be forgiven, while watching Evolution, for thinking that X-Files star David Duchovny has been given something of a bum deal in his bid to find Big Screen stardom.

For his first real attempt to break onto the Hollywood A-list, the actor is not only pitted against aliens once more, but is forced to `save the world' by partly entering the anus of a particularly large extra terrestrial. And, yes, Evolution is that kind of movie.

Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman has taken a film that was originally conceived as a dramatic and very violent alien thriller and made it gross for a different reason - combining elements of American Pie-like humour with mankind's bid to save the world from domination.

And despite losing control at the end - and, worse, running out of ideas - Evolution still manages to be an enjoyably whacky night at the movies; the kind which offers some weird and wonderful special effects to match its laugh out loud moments.

When a meteor hits earth in Glen Canyon, California, carrying alien life forms which evolve at a rapid rate, it is up to Duchovny's disgraced former government scientist turned teacher, Dr Ira Kane, to lead the fight against them. Joining him are Orlando Jones's inept geologist and friend, Harry Block; Julianne Moore's accident prone Allison, a business epidemiologist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Seann William Scott's wannabe fireman, Wayne.

The aliens, themselves, are constantly evolving and what begin as single cell organisms confined to a petri dish, soon develop into all manner of CGI-inspired ETs - including an alien spider, dragonfly, walking log, tentacle tree, triphibian, monster birds, amoebas and a terra form table - all capable of wreaking havoc upon an ill-prepared and consistently dim population.

Much of the fun in watching Reitman's movie lies in its endlessly inventive use of creature effects; many of which possess hidden dangers for its human investigators. But, as with so many movies nowadays, things become prone to excess and once the shotgun wielding trio of Duchovny, Scott and Jones have successfully tracked down a monster bird in a shopping mall (in a fabulously realised sequence), things seem to run out of steam and have a tendency to go back on themselves for `inspiration'.

The energy of the stars manages to prevent the movie becoming tedious, however, with Duchovny delivering some nice asides at the expense of his TV persona (he has a flair for comedy); Scott and Jones providing many of the out and out laughs and Moore making an appealing heroine and love interest.

And while Reitman's movie does occasionally give some weight to the science fiction aspects of the story - and the nature of how life evolved - much of the drama is lost amid the comedy; much of which tends towards the gross out (Jones's encounter with a bug in his colon is another example of what to expect).

With this in mind, anyone expecting a tightly woven, intricately plotted slice of sci-fi much like The X-Files would be advised to remember that Evolution has been made by the same guy who gave us a Giant Marsh-mellow Man in the Eighties! So you're better off disengaging the brain, kicking back and laughing along with the sheer scale of the stupidity on show.

As for Duchovny's Big Screen chances? Expect him to be the butt of many jokes from the critics.