David Duchovny and a film full of aliens - no surprises there, eh? But hold on, because this ain’t no "X-Files" and he ain’t no Agent Mulder. And, with the help of a bumbling beauty and a couple of smart-asses, this helps make the film a decent watch.
The basic premise of the movie is Hollywood’s standard "Formula M", where M = Meteor. That’s right, one of those outer-space visitors comes crashing to Earth, right into Wayne’s (Sean William Scott) car, in the middle of Glen Canyon, Arizona. This is investigated by Dr. Ira Kane (Duchovny), a droll science teacher in the nearby Community College, along with his colleague, Prof. Harry Block (Orlando Jones), who’s more interested in cheerleaders than geology, which he happens to teach. So, our two crusading heroes smooth-talk their way into getting a couple of samples and there the fun begins.
They soon discover that the samples are teeming with cell life, which turn out to be evolving rather quickly. So, off go our intrepid adventurers to check out the meteor site again. And find that there’s a little world starting up right there on the desert floor, complete with its own special atmosphere. Meanwhile, Wayne loses his chance to be a fire-fighter and ends up as a pool manager, where he soon finds an odd looking creature in the water supply.
The whole operation suddenly lands up in the hands of the military, which is when we find out that Dr. Kane was a top researcher for the Government, but was disgraced due to some hazardous research work. It is here, too, that we get to meet the lovely Dr. Allison (Julianne Moore), a klutzy but brilliant researcher. Everything then starts to happen simultaneously. The heroes are debarred from participating in the research, a few aliens start appearing across town and Wayne drops his crummy job and joins forces with the first two musketeers. The aliens are evolving at an awesome rate and they’re not particularly friendly, so the military goes on the offensive, while the brains try to figure the whole deal out. The race beginneth.
The cast is fairly well cast. Duchovny reinforces his ability to act in comedies and gives a good performance as the dry-witted and risk-taking Kane. Moore turns out quite a different role compared to "Hannibal", but she seems to be quite in her element and, every once in a while, gets to flash that devastating smile. Jones and Wayne are decent, but not great. There’s good interaction between the cast, but I wish they could have developed the romance between Kane and Allison a tad extra. But, since this is supposed to be a summer popcorn flick, the acting is decent.
The story is quite simple - aliens land on Earth, threaten to take over, good guys must save planet. So, basically, it’s up to the special effects to enhance the film. And they really do - the whole progression of life - cells to flatworms to primates - is well depicted. But it is also a little boring - I mean, you’d expect alien life to develop in a different progression right? That’s why throwing in those flying dinosaurs seems just a tad contrived.
But Reitman, director of "Ghostbusters" knows how to use aliens to good effect. The pace is good and there are a fair number of funny incidents thrown in - not long enough to be memorable perhaps, but good for a chuckle. The finale is particularly impressive.
The movie holds its own as far a summer blockbuster goes and is worth a look-see, at least for the special effects and for the lead pair.This article was first published on 28 Sep 2001.