Evolution

A comic fantasy in the vein of MEN IN BLACK (1997) that pits wise-cracking scientists against an army of rapidly mutating meteor monsters. Things move pretty slowly in Glen Canyon, Ariz., until a meteor does a nosedive into the nearby desert and embeds itself in one of the numerous caves and mining tunnels that honeycomb the area. Local community college...read more

Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
Rating:

A comic fantasy in the vein of MEN IN BLACK (1997) that pits wise-cracking scientists against an army of rapidly mutating meteor monsters. Things move pretty slowly in Glen Canyon, Ariz., until a meteor does a nosedive into the nearby desert and embeds itself in one of the numerous caves and mining tunnels that honeycomb the area. Local community college profs Ira Kane (David Duchovny) and Harry Block (Orlando Jones) are first on the scene, and find the meteor oozing what turns out to be super-charged primordial soup-from-another-world. Within 24 hours, its teeming population of one-celled organisms has started evolving into more complex life forms. Visions of Nobel prizes dancing in their heads, Kane and Block return to the site, only to find that their discovery has been hijacked by the government. While Block and Kane bicker with cool-but-klutzy epidemiologist Dr. Allison Reed (Julianne Moore) and self-important General Woodman (Ted Levine), Kane's old nemesis from his days as a military medical researcher, the aliens keep on evolving into ever-larger things that sting, claw, bite and — of course — find their way out of the cave and into a very startled general population. Don Jakoby's original script, a straight-up sci-fi/horror effort reminiscent of such '50s pictures as X THE UNKNOWN (1956) and IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953), evolved into a smart-alecky action comedy under the guidance of director Ivan Reitman, and the bad news is that it's no GHOSTBUSTERS (1984). The good news is that it's no GHOSTBUSTERS II (1989): The story isn't much — the ever-evolving aliens are better served by the cute-but-icky effects than the simplistic script — but it skims along on the cast's chemistry. They even manage to smooth over the film's excessive reliance on juvenile butt jokes and truly brazen product placement for Head and Shoulders shampoo. Duchovny's deadpan delivery meshes nicely with Jones's broader characterization, and Seann William Scott manages not to be too annoying as their goofball foil. Moore is charming as the smart babe whose icy surface conceals a mischievous sparkle, while Levine, in a role that a less-assured actor could easily have overplayed, is officious and invariably wrong without seeming preposterously stupid. And Dan Aykroyd, in the small role of the governor of Arizona, delivers exactly the right amount of pompous bluster.