[box cover]

Evolution

If this is the level that movies have "evolved" to, we're in trouble. This unevenly paced, predictable sci-fi comedy may have pick-of-the-gene-pool special effects, but in terms of cinematic Darwinism, Evolution is mired in a swamp of one-celled critters. The derivative plot — ripped off from movies like Gremlins and director Ivan Reitman's own Ghostbusters — never advances past Screenwriting 101. Gee, is it possible that a couple of wise-cracking renegade scientists will one-up the government when fast-evolving aliens threaten to take over the Earth? Take a wild guess. David Duchovny and Orlando Jones are actually decent as Ira and Harry, the two community college profs who first discover the E.T.s in a meteor that crash-landed in the desert outside their sleepy Arizona town — the two actors make the best of the script's attempts at witty repartee. And Seann William Scott plays his typical clueless-surfer-dude persona for a few good laughs as would-be fireman Wayne. Julianne Moore, as klutzy CDC scientist Allison, is the cast's weak link; it's not that she doesn't give it her all, but her character — who starts out as a rigid team player but ditches the feds and joins studly Dr. Ira & Co. for almost no apparent reason (other than hormones) — is a puzzle. Perhaps the scenes that make Allison's actions logical were lost on the cutting room floor...along with the film's humor and creativity. Because, honestly, the movie's climactic battle with the aliens is really just one big poop joke, and what with the Farrelly Brothers, the Nutty Professor movies, and the rest of that ilk, haven't we all had enough of that by now? At least in Ghostbusters it was marshmallow. As with most effects-heavy films, Evolution isn't as impressive on the small screen, but it does look and sound pretty good on DVD. The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is strong (all the better to show off the aliens and their elaborate eco-systems), and the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is clear as a bell (English DTS and 2.0 tracks are also available, as is French 5.1 and English, Spanish, and French subtitles). The healthy special features menu includes a jokey commentary track with Reitman, Duchovny, Jones, and Scott, a 15-minute "HBO First Look" featurette, six storyboard sequences, a 10-minute visual-effects featurette, photo galleries, cast and crew bios, production notes, and a set of six deleted scenes with commentary by Reitman. A couple of the bits that were cut — particularly one in Allison's hotel room — make some of the character/plot murkiness a little clearer, but for the most part you won't miss what's missing. (One complaint: What happened to the scene, rotated heavily in the movie's trailers and ads, in which Duchovny gets turned on when Moore fires a gun? It's nowhere to be found in the movie or on the DVD.) Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech



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