Evolution originally began its cinematic existence as a science-fiction/horror film and, in the hands of Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, evolved into a special effects laden comedy. Upon watching the film, one really wishes that some laughs were produced as well. Evolution is a plodding, boring and unfunny film that is as much fun to watch as a slowly leaking bicycle tyre.
The story takes place in a small desert town in Arizona, where a meteor crashes late one evening. Two community college professors, Ira (David Duchovny) and Harry (Orlando Jones), head out to investigate. They grab a sample of some slime oozing from the rock and head back to the college labs to investigate. What they discover is that within this slime is an alien life form that is evolving at an exceptionally fast rate. Ira and Harry smell fortune and glory with their discovery.
That is until the military, led by General Woodman (Ted Levine), an arrogant brass man who usurps the duo’s findings for his own benefit, steps in and screws everything up. Our heroic duo is given the heave ho just as the alien species begins to grow more rapidly and evolve into things that can hardly be described as friendly. While the military comes up with the wrong way to deal with the alien menace (natch), our intrepid duo, aided by a dimwitted fireman candidate named Wayne (Seann William Scott) and Allison (Julianne Moore), a clumsy CDC epidemiologist, set out to wipe them out properly. I won’t tell you how, but let’s just say that you will think of Head & Shoulders shampoo in an entirely different way.
The first of many problems with Evolution is the screenplay, which wants to be Ghostbusters only with aliens instead of specters. This might have worked if it was in the hands of that 1984 movie’s screenwriters Harold Ramis and Dan Akyroyd (who has a small role here as the loudmouthed governor of Arizona). Instead, we have Don Jakoby, David Diamond and David Weissman doing the writing duties (Diamond and Weissman were responsible for The Family Man, one of the worst films of 2000). Their jokes fall flat (unless you’re, say, ten years old), the characters are tired clichs, the romance angle between Moore’s and Duchovny’s characters makes Pearl Harbor’s romance look workable and as far as the alien menace goes, there is no real sense of danger or doom to be found here. Then again, there is no sense of workable humor or endearing characters to be found either.
Then there is Ivan Reitman, the director of the film. A while back, when one saw Reitman’s name (as a director) on a movie, you could expect a fun time at the movies (the first Ghostbusters, Meatballs, Dave and Stripes are fine examples). But in recent memory, Reitman has turned out such laughless duds as Junior, Kindergarten Cop and Six Days, Seven Nights. You can add Evolution to the latter list. His directing is as lazy as the writing is, coupled with pacing that would better suit a cartoon and a bad one at that. Reitman went through the trouble of aping his most popular film; unfortunately he did mime his directing from that film as well.
When you have a director and a screenplay both on autopilot, the mediocrity begins to trickle down to other major departments as well. The likable cast seems bored, showing about as much energy as a burnt out light bulb. Duchovny shows no signs of the wry sense of humor he brought to TV’s The X-Files (he quit that show for THIS?!). Jones shows a bit more life and does manage to deliver some laughs here and there, but once again the lifelessness of the production seems to be holding him back from really taking off. Julianne Moore seems completely out of her league here (and delivers zero chemistry when it comes to her and Duchovny), Ted Levine completely overplays his military bad guy (as does Akyroyd with his role) and Seann William Scott plays stupid just a wee bit too convincingly (this is not a compliment).
Evolution is a boring film that never comes to life. It doesn’t serve as decent summer entertainment but someday it may serve a more beneficial purpose to those who watch it: as a sleeping aide.