Who ya gonna call when creatures from outer space threaten our planet? If a meteor crashed to earth carrying alien life forms, betcha wouldn’t think about contacting your local community college for help. But in Evolution, two professors from one of these fine Arizona institutions emerge as the guys who save the world. Played by David Duchovny and Orlando Jones, this comical duo made me chuckle throughout director Ivan Reitman’s (Ghostbusters) amusing sci-fi comedy. While attending a community college and even serving as an administrator at one, I never met teachers like these. If there had been, students would probably have shown up in droves to enroll in their "Science Can Be Fun" classes. How much learning would take place is another matter entirely.
A former government scientist who has fallen into disgrace, Dr. Ira Kane (Duchovny) wins over his students by giving most of them high grades. (Where was he when I needed him in my Biology and Chemistry classes?) He seems to view teaching as a lark, even to the point of joking with two dense brothers for turning in the same short essay about "cells." This scene is a gem. Whenever I think of Duchovny reading the boys’ two-sentence paper about a prison cell, it still makes me laugh out loud. Geology professor Harry Bloch (Jones) is just as offbeat as his colleague Kane. Bloch prefers coaching the women’s volleyball team and practicing "Solid Gold" dance routines to instructing classes.
Kane and Bloch are an unlikely team of heroes. Still, these fun-loving academics recognize the crashed meteor as an opportunity to gain respect in the scientific community and to make some big bucks. Bloch asks Kane, "Is the Nobel Prize paid in installments?" (Come to think of it, that’s what I’d like to know about the Pulitzer.) I found Duchovny’s laid back tongue-in-cheek attitude just as appealing here as it is in his X-Files portrayal of Agent Fox Mulder. Jones’s performance, lively but toned down a notch from his wacky pilot role in "Say It Isn’t So," worked for me too. He’s especially funny while shouting a panicked "There’s a fly in my suit!" as an alien insect penetrates his safety outfit. Duchovny and Jones play off each other with excellent comic timing. Although not quite another Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, they’re lots of fun to watch as they fight the military bureaucracy together over alien specimens they were the first to discover.
But, oh how I wish Julianne Moore (Hannibal) were not a member of the movie’s otherwise hilarious sci-fi group! Playing a klutzy but determined epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, her attempts at pratfalls are pathetic rather than humorous. I couldn’t believe my eyes when one of those tumbles revealed a garter belt and silk stockings under her short skirt. Hey, I guess every dedicated female scientist wears something like this while working at a desert research site. If so, I have a suggestion. New inventions are available now that could help them be more comfortable on the job. They’re called SLACKS, JEANS, and PANT SUITS. Try them! Regrettably, Moore also displays her usual deadpan expression in most of her scenes, despite the need for at least some kind of excited look while saying such lines as "I would rock your world" to the man she loves.
Young actor Seann William Scott (Road Trip) fares much better. Portraying a wannabe fireman whose car gets hit by the meteor, Scott appears on screen almost as much as Duchovny and Jones and manages to steal some scenes with his naivete and off-key singing. His character insists on warbling "You Are So Beautiful" over a shopping mall microphone, hoping to lure one of the alien creatures to its doom. It’s a very comical bit --- except for the creature, of course.
Evolution’s creatures are extraordinary in their variety and imaginative characteristics. Naturally, I realize every sci-fi movie these days has its share of amazing ones, thanks to the wonders of computer technology. I remember being dazzled by the exotic monsters in Men in Black, frightened by the huge dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, and stunned by The Phantom Menace’s marching androids. Nevertheless, because Evolution shows the rapid growth and development of life forms from tiny cells to gigantic pulsating organisms, these creatures are something special. I marveled at the film’s wild variations of alien spiders and dragonflies as well as its creative walking logs, adorable dog, flying monster, and giant amoeba.
All right, students, let’s review what we’ve learned from today’s science lesson. We’ve discovered it’s important to watch out for meteors. Why? Because they have the power not only to destroy cars but also to transport the beginnings of an alien world. And that could mean the end of mankind. So here’s your next assignment. Find out how to eliminate these creatures if such a disaster occurs. I’ll give you a hint. The best weapon is a product many of you have in your own bathrooms. Boys and girls who come back tomorrow with the correct answer will earn an "A+." Class dismissed.
(Released by DreamWorks and Columbia Pictures and rated "PG-13" for crude and sexual humor, and for sci-fi action.)