When it comes to horror movies- sometimes you have to bend the definition of the genre your own way to create something fun and familiar, yet refreshing and new at the same time. Adding contrasting elements to a scary story can often lead to a mess of clashing tones, but when it’s done correctly, and the balance is handled delicately and by professionals- you can get something brilliant… All of that to say- Today’s video is about Evolution (watch it HERE).
So, if you’re not familiar with this movie- Evolution is the 2001 science fiction comedy directed by late but legendary Ghostbusters director, Ivan Reitman. The film follows Ira Kane and Harry Block- two scientists and college professors who are leading the industry in nothing, and kind of phoning it in. But when a meteor crashes to their small town in Arizona- the two must recruit a team of experts and underdogs to stop an alien race from taking over the planet. The film stars iconic actor David Duchovny as Ira Kane, our sarcastic-but-charming leading man, Orlando Jones as Harry Block, our loyal and hilarious right-hand. We also get Julianne Moore, Seann William Scott, Ted Levine, Ethan Suplee and Michael Bower. Honestly, this cast is unbelievable, and we’re going to talk more about that later.
So, Evolution is an interesting movie because in many ways it feels like a remake of Ghostbusters, and even has the same filmmaker behind it who has stated that the film is meant to be a spiritual sequel to his 1984 classic. Where Ghostbusters was seen as one of the most beloved films ever made, Evolution seems to have been largely forgotten about by audiences. But, why? That’s what I hope to figure out today.
The movie opens its title sequence with intros to some of our most important characters. We meet Ira, a cool, laid back, and completely unreliable science professor at a community college in Glenn Canyon. He’s very much the Peter Venkman of the crew as his interests in the work has completely dwindled into nothing more than a place to cash his checks. He’s also a disgraced scientist who is living as a shell of his former glory. Similarly, we have slightly more responsible Harry, who brings humor, style, and complete chaos to the group, and we meet Wayne, played by Seann William Scott- a local nobody who wants nothing more than to be a firefighter. One night while Wayne out in the desert training for his firefighter exams, he is nearly squashed by a giant incoming meteor that caused a 200-foot crater in the ground. When Ira and Harry get word of the occurrence, they head over to check it out and get a sample. And as it turns out, the sample contains living multi-cell organisms who are evolving at a rapid rate. Like, a REALLY rapid rate.
So now our guys need to figure out what this information means, and how they can exploit it for fame and fortune. But before they know it, the whole thing becomes bigger than just them- as the US military gets involved and ices out our guys- stealing their research and hijacking the crash site. What follows is the classic underdog tale that we want from a comedy. The aliens begin taking form and slowly spreading throughout the town. They’re eating people, destroying buildings and houses, and freaking everyone out, and it’s up to our underqualified science teachers to save the day. So long as they can avoid getting got by these freaky things first…
The second half of this movie is extremely entertaining but before we get to it, I need to address a statement I made earlier. “It’s basically a Ghostbusters remake in many ways.” So, this movie shares so many similarities with the original Ghostbusters that it surprised me rewatching it. Let’s break it down.
The set-up for the plot is basically the same exact beats as Ghostbusters. This is not surprising as the structure of the screenplay for Ghostbusters is considered a perfect template for storytelling in movies.
The characters and their dynamics literally feel like a recasting of the original crew. Ira has the Venkman thing down pat, Julianne Moore’s character is basically Egon right down to the neurosis, Wayne is a clear take on Ray Stantz mixed with Zeddemore, and I’ll be good goddamned if Deke and Danny aren’t the college equivalent of Louis Tully.
Also, once the team is assembled, government meddling prevents them from fighting off the antagonistic force, just like in every Ghostbusters movie.
The alien designs are cute AND scary and one that even kind of looks like Slimer.
The leading characters have the exact same jobs as Venkman and Egon
Hell, Dan Aykroyd even makes an extended cameo in the movie as the Governor of Arizona.
To me, these things could have felt distracting if it weren’t for the ideal cast that brought these characters to life. David Duchovny is well-known for his roles on popular tv shows like The X-Files and Californication, and he really knows what he’s doing with this character. He’s like the classic 2000s leading man and brings an edge to his comedy that makes him a standout straight man. But truthfully, the same can be said for everyone involved. Julianne Moore doesn’t need to prove shit to us, but she brought something to this role that made her even more likable. Orlando Jones needs to be in more movies, period. And the added humor of characters like Denise, played by Sarah Silverman- add so much levity to this story that you can’t help but sit back and enjoy it.
The final act of this movie is also similar to Ghostbusters. Our team, now complete with Ira, Harry, Wayne, Allison, and the unlikely MVPs of the ending, Deke and Danny, two complete idiots whose frosted tips literally save the day when they discover that the active ingredient in their shampoo is the only chemical compound that can defeat the aliens. It is, so genius. See, the government plans to blow up the crash site to destroy all of the growing organisms in the crater. They THINK this is the only solution to stop the aliens. When Allison tries to tell them that fire only makes them grow stronger, they ignore her and proceed as planned.
Now equipped with 500 gallons of Head and Shoulders, the team has to steal a firetruck and load it up with shampoo before driving it into the crash site and spraying the aliens with fire hoses full of hair product. And ya wanna know how they do it? They give the 500 foot alien a shampoo enema. They spray 500 gallons of shampoo into the alien’s asshole. And the most f*cked up part is… it’s the perfect way to pay off the scene where Block gets violated by that dragonfly.
Evolution is wonderful. It may not be the instant classic that Ghostbusters was and still is. It also may not be the most groundbreaking idea in today’s world, and maybe SOME of the CGI is a little bit dated. But, to me, the movie is funny, the story is simple and clean, the visuals are mostly still impressive, and more than anything- Evolution has heart. The wild ride that we go on with these guys, and the crazy shit that we see along the way, it all matters because at the core- Evolution is a movie about redemption and making peace with not being as successful as you once were. When Ira saves the day, it’s as if he re-discovers what it’s really like to love his job, and he learns that the mistakes he’s made are not what defines him.
Man, Evolution rules. Go back and watch it.
Two previous episodes of Revisited can be seen below. To see more of our shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals channel – and subscribe while you’re at it!