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Evolution (2001)
Rated R

Starring: David Duchovny, Julianne Moore, and Orlando Jones

Rating:
***
out of
*****

In the middle of a summer night, a large meteor slams into the Arizona desert. When Dr. Ira Kane (David Duchovny) and Dr. Harold Block (Orlando Jones) from the local community college investigate the crash site, they find the meteor is oozing a substance that contains one-celled organisms. After being taken back to the lab, the single-celled creatures become multiple-celled organisms, an evolution that took creatures on this planet millions of years to achieve. Eager to retrieve more information from the meteor's crash site, Dr. Blake and Dr. Kane return only to find that the U.S. Army has sealed it off from them and everyone else.

The Army has enlisted the help of Dr. Allison Reed (Julianne Moore), who works for the Center for Disease Control, to help them assess what they're dealing with. Kane and Block demand to be let back into the site, but are denied by General Woodman (Ted Levine), who has worked with Dr. Kane in the past. Eventually, the alien life forms take on larger and more complex shapes and start attacking the local residents, including a hilarious scene in a shopping mall.

This type of "invasion by an unknown commodity" comedy has been done before, in such movies as Men in Black and Ghostbusters (which was also directed by Ivan Reitman), but this movie has a few nice gimmicks and performances that keep it from being totally redundant. David Duchovny has fun with his character and manages to poke fun at his Agent Mulder persona at the same time. Julianne Moore is likeably humorous as the prat-falling Dr. Reed. Orlando Jones, however, is the movie's saving grace as Dr. Block. His performance provides the movie's biggest laughs.

For a comedy, the film has some eye-popping special effects work. A scene that showcases the different life forms at the crash site is a tour de force of computer generated special effects. A tip of the hat to Phil Tippett, who's worked on films like Star Wars, Starship Troopers and Jurassic Park, is definitely in order.

Evolution didn't set the box office on fire when it was released earlier this summer, but it is worth catching at the bargain theater or when it appears on video. It's a funny, if somewhat average, sci-fi comedy.

Trivia: Ted Levine, who plays General Woodman, played "Buffalo Bill" in The Silence of the Lambs. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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