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The UnPopular Opinion: Evolution

07.13.2017

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Having an opinion about movies is a funny thing. Sometimes, I am right there with the crowd and love the big blockbusters or critical darlings (like SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING) and other times I find myself boggled at how the public has nothing but vitriol for what is an otherwise fun movie. Last year, the GHOSTBUSTERS remake was the talk of the summer movie season thanks to the divisive nature of the all-female cast and purists who could not accept anything aside from a true sequel to the original. But, years before GHOSTBUSTERS finally came back to the big screen, director Ivan Reitman attempted his own partial reboot with 2001's EVOLUTION. Made during the height of David Duchovny's popularity on The X-Files, EVOLUTION was a blend of MEN IN BLACK with Reitman's classic GHOSTBUSTERS. The resulting film was as fun and funny as countless other modern studio features but was left sadly forgotten by audiences and ravaged by most critics. But, despite glaring product placement and some uneven moments, EVOLUTION is the GHOSTBUSTERS reboot fans never new they already got.

Why does GHOSTBUSTERS work when EVOLUTION does not? Well, GHOSTBUSTERS hinged on the peformance of Bill Murray who made Peter Venkman the embodiment of lovable douchebag while both Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson carried the rest of the team. The dynamic between the four made them feel like a true team rather than four actors thrown together. EVOLUTION consists of a four person team as well, but none aside from David Duchovny and Julianne Moore really had the star power to let audiences know what they were getting. Duchovny and Moore are also not known for their comedic roles whereas Orlando Jones and Sean Willian Scott are typecast to this day. Believe it or not, but Jones and Duchovny play so well off of one another in this film that they could have marketed this on their buddy dynamic alone. Scott and Moore and good, too,but the marketing did no favors for this movie by failing to drive home the similarties with GHOSTBUSTERS.

The UnPopular Opinion, Comedy, Science Fiction, Evolution, Ivan Reitman, Julianne Moore, David Duchovny, Orlando Jones

Namely, Dan Aykroyd. Taking on the role of the governor of Arizona, the GHOSTBUSTERS star and writer plays a character similar to the Mayor of New York from that iconic 1984 flick. In fact, the entire silly plot of EVOLUTION mimics GHOSTBUSTERS left and right but none of that spirit made it into the trailers or the poster. Even the three-eyed smiley logo was a half-assed attempt to recall the memorable ghost logo but didn't have the same flair to it. EVOLUTION is a smart story wrapped in dumb fun, like GHOSTBUSTERS. EVOLUTION never takes itself very seriously, either, which takes away some of the gravity from the proceedings. This aids in the film having more of a pulp feel to it that a lot of studio comedies don't have these days. Unlike some other GHOSTBUSTERS wannabees, like the Adam Sandler bomb PIXELS, EVOLUTION actually made me laugh.

There is some CGI that doesn't quite live up sixteen years later, but EVOLUTION also made some good use of practical effects like the monstrous primate aliens. These apes almost looked like they should have been in a more serious film, but Reitman instead elected to play them and the other beasts for laughs rather than scares. There is just enough edge to make the creatures a menace but also maintains their lovability. The script is more intelligent and witty than it is dumb and crass and often comes off like GHOSTBUSTERS III: ALIENS ATTACK. Through the entire film, I could not help but think of this being the modern GHOSTBUSTERS rather than some cheap knock off. As much as I enjoyed last year's GHOSTBUSTERS update, I could not help but find myself thinking back to the 1984 film in comparison. EVOLUTION feels like an actual evolution from ghosts to aliens while still maintaining a modern visual style. If anything, EVOLUTION is proof that Reitman himself is still capable of helming another GHOSTBUSTERS himself.

The UnPopular Opinion, Comedy, Science Fiction, Evolution, Ivan Reitman, Julianne Moore, David Duchovny, Orlando Jones

David Duchovny is also quite funny. Known for a certain type of humor on series like Californication and some of the lighter outings on The X-Files, Duchovny has always shown the ability to evoke chuckles, but in EVOLUTION he goes for the full Murray and really dives into playing his character. All of the main cast are quite good here thanks to not taking the material seriously. Julianne Moore is able to go from scenes depicting pratfalls and emergency colonoscopies to telling the governor about the impending destruction of the human race and seems totally at ease in both. The hallmarks of great actors are their abilities to make the material they are working with feel organic and not at all beneath them. Orlando Jones is another actor here who is woefully underrated. Jones has done some damn fine work in recent years on FOX's Sleepy Hollow and most recently on Starz's American Gods but found himself typecast in the early 2000s. I know I blew him off for most of his work back then but I may have to give him a second chance in hindsight.

Am I going to say that Sean William Scott was great here too? No, but I also am not going to trash his performance either. Scott found a niche in his career and gave every Stifler-esque performance his all. But, no film aside from the AMERICAN PIE movies feels like a showcase for Scott's brand of bro-humor as much as EVOLUTION. He is not my favorite part of the movie but I also don't dread seeing him on screen. I could have done with a little less mugging but if I am going to quibble about that, I could complain about the handful of other groan-worthy moments in this movie. But, every movie has those moments and I can overlook them when the rest of the movie makes me smile and enjoy myself. EVOLUTION does that and does it well.

The UnPopular Opinion, Comedy, Science Fiction, Evolution, Ivan Reitman, Julianne Moore, David Duchovny, Orlando Jones

EVOLUTION Is bright, funny, and never takes itself too seriously which is often the downfall for studio comedies. In many cases, movies are either too much of one or the other but never balance laughs with the action. EVOLUTION maintains a consistent style and tone throughout that you would never mistake for more than it is. Maybe that is why GHOSTBUSTERS has failed to get traction with remakes; audiences are expecting a Best Picture from material that will never win any awards. EVOLUTION was never going to be a box office behemoth or even a critical darling, but just because a movie is dumb doesn't make it stupid. It is entirely possible for a movie to be fun without being the Palm D'Or. One of the reasons PIXELS didn't work with the same structure and plot as EVOLUTION was because no one seemed to be enjoying making it. You can never say that about EVOLUTION.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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