Evolution is such a film where you put down the textbooks on great modern films, order some beer and pizza invite some friends over and have 100 minutes of goofy fun

Not every film can be great. Some can aspire only to being fun to watch. There is nothing wrong with this. I have spoken to many people that want to compare every film to Casablanca or the Godfather. This is just wrong. When you stop looking for greatness in every film you can appreciate many films for what they are, a fun watch. Evolution is such a film.

Put down the textbooks on great modern films, order some beer and pizza invite some friends over and have 100 minutes of goofy fun. Evolution has a thin plot that holds up amazingly well do to the cast and direction. The Evolution story starts with Wayne Green (Seann William Scott), a young man that lives in Arizona who wants to move up from his job at the pool of the local country club and be a fireman. To this end he brings a resuscitation dummy to an isolated shack, puts it inside and sets the shack ablaze. He can then ‘work’ on his rescue techniques. His practice session is interrupted when a meteor falls from the sky and hits the shack. Dispatched to the scene of the meteor is Harry Block (Orlando Jones) a science teacher at the local community college and his friend, the head of the biology department Dr. Ira Kane (David Duchovny). As they take samples they notice there is ooze on the meteor and they take samples back to the school to investigate. Kane finds some simple one-cell organisms growing and runs to get Harry. By the time his friend peers into the microscope the one cell organisms have become mutilcelluar. By the time they get back to the site it has be taken over by the Army and the CDC. The general in charge is General Woodman (Ted Levine) who knew Ira when they both worked together for the Department of Defense. Representing the CDC is Dr. Allison Reed (Julianne Moore), beautiful but constantly falling over herself. Soon the creatures are bigger, hungrier and have broken out of the cavern to the local country club, mall and homes. What ensues is a funny albeit uneven romp through some of the strangest creatures every made by a special effects team. The story soon settles into scientists versus the army as the creatures provide more mayhem.

Much of the cast here is not known for comedy. Duchovny takes the dead pan character he made famous in the X-Files and twists it nicely to fit the role of Ira. He has a good sense of comic timing and manages to pull off the very physical and scatological humor. He also teams well with Jones. Jones is used to comedy and provides more laughs with his rubber face than much of the script. He was born to play slapstick; he is a natural for it. In one famous scene where one smaller creature is under his skin and the doctor must remove it rectally Jones shouts out ‘There is always time for lubricant!’ a line that because of Jones’ delivery will live on in our vernacular. Moore does an excellent job as Allison. Since her character is always falling down or bumping into something the danger here is to overplay these aspects of her character. Fortunately, this was not done. Moore plays down the bumbling so that it punctuates the performance not overwhelms it. There is some pretty good chemistry between the leads, which is required to make this type of film work. Scott as Wayne plays the role that he has been pigeon-hold into, the brain-dead slacker. While this niche works well for him he has the glimmer of potential that may lead him to better comic roles. The cast works fairly well off each other and can carry the movie even in light of the special effects.

The director of Evolution is Ivan Reitman, best known for his masterpiece ‘Ghostbusters’. It appears that he attempted to use the same formula here, wacky scientists, special effects monsters and bumbling authority figures. Lightening did not hit twice. Part of the reason is the Ghostbusters film had better writing and a cast well honed in comedy. Duchovny and Moore just can’t hold up to the likes of Bill Murray. Still, Reitman manages to hold Evolution together with pacing and an intelligent mix of physical and verbal humor. He did not fall into the trap of letting the special effects carry Evolution. As with Ghostbusters, the effects add to the film but never controls it.

Speaking of the effects, it looks as though the people working on these creatures where given a large dose of hallucinatory drugs and made to watch every 50’s ‘B’ Sci-Fi flick. They are cute in many respects, which makes the audience laugh even more when they begin their feeding frenzy. Reitman is an excellent director. He can draw the audience into the most minimal of scripts and hold them for the duration of the movie. Visually the film is interesting and the use of the soundtrack creates the world that these strange people and creatures inhabit.

The Evolution DVD is above average in how it was mastered. The audio is presented in both Dolby 5.1 and DTS. The DTS version had a little more in the way of low range frequencies and a better overall balance and fullness to the sound field. The anamorphic 1.85:1 video was amazingly clear, free of artifacts and display every little detail.

There is a director’s commentary that at times is better than the Evolution film. Of course there is a feature on the special effects. There are also several deleted scenes. Of note here is one featuring Sara Silverman as Ira’s ex-girlfriend, which explains a comic moment towards the end of the film. There is also an alternate ending which I personally found very funny and could see it being left in Evolution. Not great but you will find yourself laughing for awhile.

Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com

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