Picks and Pans Review: Evolution

updated 06/18/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/18/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

David Duchovny, Julianne Moore, Orlando Jones, Seann William Scott

Ivan Reitman evidently works on the premise that stealing from yourself is not plagiarism. The director of the 1984 blockbuster Ghost-busters and its lesser 1989 sequel, Reitman is clearly hoping magic will strike again with Evolution, in which a trio of quick-to-quip scientists (Duchovny, Jones and Moore) wage war on alien creatures. Sound familiar? Times have changed, though, and even a brief cameo by original ghostbuster Dan Aykroyd (he plays an elected official here) can't save this one from deserving a critical sliming.

Evolution begins with a meteor crashing into the desert near Glen Canyon, Ariz., where Duchovny and Jones, two skirt-chasing buddies, teach science at a community college. The men take samples of a blue liquid oozing from the meteor and soon have petri dishes swarming with living, breathing, rapidly evolving organisms. Within days, fierce dinosaur-like creatures are prowling the landscape and chomping at humans who cross their path. Warns Moore, a government scientist who joins forces with Duchovny and Jones: "In two months their ecosystem will take over the U.S." Who you gonna call?

There are amusing lines scattered throughout Evolution (urged to call the feds in on the case, Duchovny, in a nod to his X-Files days, says, "No government. I know those people"), and the solution for zapping the alien critters is inspired (and a triumph of product placement). Overall, though, this is an anemic effort that feels more recycled than evolved. Among the cast, Jones is the comic standout, using his rubber face and, one suspects, gift for improvising to advantage. Duchovny is essentially the straight man here (though he gets to moon an old foe in one scene), while Moore, repeatedly required to execute pratfalls, looks distinctly uncomfortable at finding herself marooned in such pallid piffle. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Darwin was wrong

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