“Ghostbusters” seems to have been the definitive sci-fi/horror/comedy about a band of f**k-up scientists desperate trying to get their act together to save the world. Has it really been 17 years since it came out? The brain trust at Dreamworks must have thought it was about time for another one, so they hired the same director for the stylistically similar “Evolution”. Of course, back then helmer Ivan Reitman was coming off “Meatballs” and “Stripes”. This time, his last two films are “Six Days, Seven Nights” and “Father’s Day”.
Bill Murray isn’t around either (though Dan Aykroyd makes an appearance). Instead we get the at least capable David Duchovny and Orlando Jones. Duchovny’s Ira Kane is a former high-level military scientist reduced to teaching at an Arizona community college after a disastrous vaccine test. His best friend and fellow teacher is Harry Block (Jones), who seems more focused on coaching the school’s women’s volleyball team than any kind of science.
Anyhoo, yet another screw-up, Wayne (Seann William Scott) is trying to “study” for his fireman’s exam in the middle of the desert when a meteor plows through his car and into the Earth, finally stopping in an underground cave. Local adjunct professor Harry is then sent to investigate the rock. With Ira tagging along, the pair discovers slime containing a living, single-cell organism multiplying at an incredible rate. A few hours later in the school lab they find our planet’s visitor has also multiplied in cell count as it leaps through hundreds of millions of years of evolution in the course of a day. A return to the crash-site reveals even more weirdness as the contents of the rock has already created its own incubator/eco-system. Increasingly advanced creatures are quickly born and die as evolution branches off in every direction in an apparent effort to create life that can survive on Earth.
Now Ira seems this as his big ticket out of this sun-drenched purgatory. Unfortunately for him, his former boss Dr. Woodman (Ted Levine) bugged his computer and quickly swoops in with a government team lead by the comely yet slapstick-prone Dr. Allison Reed (Julianne Moore). Ira and Harry find themselves shut out. Can they find their way back in before Woodman botches it up for all of them? Hilarity, CG, product placement, a*s-jokes, and other such disposable things quickly ensue.
Well, it’s a cool idea with some cool-looking creatures. If that were all that was necessary to make this film work, the producers would be all set. Too bad the success of “Ghostbusters” had nothing at all to do with that stuff and everything to do with the talent and chemistry of the cast. The new recruits aren’t necessarily slackers in those departments, but back in the day Reitman knew when to give his people some freedom to do their thing. Several crappy star vehicles later, the director probably acquiesced when a nervous studio wanted more screen time for the virtual talent they could push in the trailers. It’s a shame as the game cast barely has room to breathe, much less develop their characters. Moore probably suffers the most in an underwritten part that smells suspiciously like one of Sandra Bullock’s cast-offs. Moore and Duchovny, initially resentful toward each other, likely only knew there supposed to be getting hot for each other because they were nearing the end of the story. You know, those sorts of things are supposed to happen around then. Whatever.
Hey, I never expected “The Godfather” here and “Evolution” is actually providing an important service. You’ll find it easier to get through a summer movie season if you learn to lower your expectations early. If you need some help in this department, then “Evolution” is the film for you.