"I take orders from the Octoboss."


chapter 5

2001posterreleased June 8th, 2001

I skipped EVOLUTION in the summer of 2001 because it didn’t look very good. Hey, what do you know, it turns out me-of-ten-years-ago knew what he was doing. But for this important scholarly work it was crucial that I not just view the 2001 movies people remember. To truly get a feel for the period I had to watch at least one movie that came out that summer and then nobody ever thought about it again.

In case you never thought about it in the first place, EVOLUTION is a sci-fi comedy by Ivan Reitman, accurately described on the DVD cover as “the director of Ghostbusters and Road Trip.” (I would’ve gone for “the producer of Shivers and Space Jam.”) David Duchovny and Orlando Jones play fuck-up community college professors who discover rapidly evolving microscopic alien life on a meteor. Seann William Scott plays the wacky hyperactive weirdo whose truck gets smashed by the meteor and who manages to somehow stay around for the rest of the movie. Julianne Moore plays the government scientist/passive love interest. Of course we all agree that she’s a great actress for both drama and comedy, but I fucking guarantee you she was cast only because she’s the Hollywood movie actress who most resembles Gillian Anderson.

This is a real half-assed attempt to do a “GHOSTBUSTERS but with aliens.” I thought MEN IN BLACK was just above mediocre, but this makes that one look like an elegant labor of love. At least I can give this credit for being a less-obvious-than-it-could-be variation on the GHOSTBUSTERS template. Instead of New York City it’s a small desert town; instead of being experts in a disrespected field they’re losers who get involved by flaunting their “United States Geological Survey” credentials in an important sounding tone; instead of being ostracized for their unorthodox beliefs it’s for being a sexual harasser and for giving everybody in the army diarrhea.

Jones is occasionally asked to call upon his powers of buffoonery, like in the scene where they decide the way to catch the alien bug that’s crawling under his skin is to reach up into his ass:

but for the most part Duchovny and Jones take the right deadpan approach. Some might say they’re putting no effort into it, I think they’re just playing it purposely laid back. But the movie itself sure is lazy, so it seems less like an absurd joke and more like a screenwriting short cut when Duchovny casually reveals that he used to work for the Pentagon. I mean it almost comes across like they thought of this after they’d written the beginning and didn’t want to bother rewriting those earlier scenes.

Even EVOLUTION deserves better than this crappy poster
Even EVOLUTION deserves better than this crappy poster

There’s really no reason why these guys should be the heroes. It’s not one of those things where nobody believes them so they have to handle it themselves, and it doesn’t seem like they’re necessarily the most qualified for the job. They just lucked into it and then lie and sneak around and the local cops are stupid and fall for it. But I’m not sure why somebody else more capable isn’t working on this whole “alien monsters are getting loose and attacking the locals” problem. Or why the government has such lax security in the miniature alien habitat they’re growing in a cavern. And there aren’t enough jokes to keep me distracted from how little this stuff makes sense.

The movie is shot in a very plain and cheap looking manner, which only seems like it could be an intentional artistic choice in one of the better scenes, the one where they have to shoot a flying monster in a shopping mall. It’s funny though, the one thing that does look good is the digital monster effects. I think we finally have an explanation for the terrible creatures in THE MUMMY RETURNS: Ivan Reitman was hogging the computers they needed.

There’s a couple pretty funny jokes and alot of really terrible ones. Jones’s character is named Block, but a white guy accidentally calls him “Black,” get it? And he gets a bug inside his hazmat suit so he says “There’s a fly in my suit.” Instead of soup, you know? Hilarious! They make two attempts to do “funny singing” scenes – Scott doing bad karaoke to attract the “alien bird,” and a singalong in a car. But neither has any logical reason to happen, they’re very forced, like some clueless producer demanded two “funny singing” scenes and they had no choice but to put them in there or lose their jobs.

I guess the equivalent to the GHOSTBUSTERS “he slimed me” scene is the part where Jones gets stuck up a giant blob monster’s butthole. It’s weird that that didn’t become a big thing, with t-shirts and stuff. Maybe they overdid it by having them get farted on first.

* * *

legacy: Writers David Diamond and David Weissman went on to write OLD DOGS, WHEN IN ROME, and apparently POLICE ACADEMY 8 (details only on IMDbPro). Duchovny continued in movies but has stuck with smaller, indie type movies other than the X-FILES sequel. Scott continues to play basically the same character in most of his movies. Reitman has directed two movies since (MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND and NO STRINGS ATTACHED) and continues to talk about doing a GHOSTBUSTERS 3. But not an EVOLUTION 2. I guess there was an EVOLUTION cartoon, but I’m sure it was more of a “no turning back now” situation than a “let’s keep going with this.”

would they make a movie like this now? I hope not, but you never know.

This entry was posted on Monday, June 20th, 2011 at 11:52 am and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

118 Responses to “Evolution”

  1. I remember watching this but the only thing that comes to mind when I think of it is how disappointing Reitman’s career has become. It’s a shame as Ghostbuster’s is a true classic, but it shows that Ackroyd and Murray had more to do with that I think.

  2. I liked it. The cartoon show was really shit though. Very shitty animation, the characters didn’t look anything like their movie counterparts (Block seems to be now 19 and has dreadlocks?!?) and the three eyed smiley that was the logo of the film is now their mascot, in form of a shape shifting blob thing.

  3. Saw this in theater. There’s something wrong with me. I vaguely remember that some of the aliens were blue gorillas and I vaguely remember that and an O.D. on Junior Mints somehow managing to temporarily appease, but yeah, rough movie. Sorry you’re going through some of this. That was a mean summer. Are you eventually going to tackle Ghosts Of Mars?

  4. yeah, I remember this crappy movie, this could have just been my perception (probably was), but I seem to remember this movie being hyped up a lot, meaning a lot of commercials and I even watched a special about it on HBO

    I was kind of interested because hey, it was like you said Vern “Ghostbusters with aliens”, but whereas Men In Black had a pretty clever premise, Evolution just had a stupid one, so I skipped it in theaters and a while later tried to watch it on HBO, only to promptly turn it off because I hated it

    Ivan Reitman is pretty much a one hit wonder director (although I like Stripes and Ghostbusters 2, neither are as good as Ghostbusters) and I think Ghostbusters success stemmed largely from the actors and the script

  5. what are some other “Ghostbusters but with X” premises Hollywood hasn’t used yet?

    there’s Ghostbusters but with cryptozoological animals like Bigfoot, chupacabra, Moth Man, Jersey Devil and Loch Ness Monster

    or Ghostbusters but with conspiracy theories, a wacky group of (probably libertarian) guys try to stop the Illuminati from taking over the world

    actually now that I think about it a comedy making fun of conspiracy theories is actually not a bad idea considering how many people take that shit so seriously

  6. Ivan Reitman hasn’t made a movie worth watching since Dave, and that was in 1993. I remember getting suckered into seeing this movie because of the Ghostbusters similarity. What a completely unfunny movie. If this guy ends up directing Ghostbusters 3 I’m not going anywhere near it.

  7. I’m pretty sure I bought this on tape for like two bucks in 2003 or so, when Blockbuster was selling off its VHS stock in great bales of analog goodness for mere pennies. At the time, I was convinced that this DVD thing was a fad, so I was in my glory.

    Even under those circumstances, it was okay, at best. Duchovny can do this kind of thing in his sleep and I liked the aliens, but I felt pandered to by all the ass jokes. Having been potty trained some time ago, thus proving that I am, truly, a big boy now, I do not feel that anus-heavy material is crucial to my enjoyment of a comedy-type motion picture such as this. Studio executives seem to feel different, however. Teh butthole = box office gold, apparently.

  8. I’ve heard the secret to Reitman’s success in his heyday was that he is a fundamentally unfunny but well-organized man who surrounded himself with extremely funny but anarchic people. He was thus able to wrangle their insanity into something resembling a real movie better than pretty much anybody else could at the time. I don’t think you can discount his contributions to GHOSTBUSTERS, STRIPES, or MEATBALLS, because in other hands they would probably seem much more lightweight and disposable. (Just look at NOTHING BUT TROUBLE to see what happened when Aykroyd was allowed to shape his own material.) I think it was a good mix of director and stars. But if you give him less funny people to work with, he just shoots it straight and hopes for the best. That works when you’re pointing the camera at Bill Murray; not so much when it’s Orlando Jones.

  9. There’s ALWAYS time for lubricant.

  10. Nothing But Trouble is a personal favorite of mine. Its like the studio gave Dan Akyroyd a check for 20 million and said “Do whatever you want. Have fun!”

    I also saw this in the theater and remember being incredibly bored. I did like Duchovny though. His deadpan personality was a good fit.

    How can we forget Reitman’s Schwarzenegger trilogy? (Twins, Kindergarten Cop, and Junior)

  11. I don’t mind NOTHING BUT TROUBLE at all, but there’s a reason GHOSTBUSTERS is a universally beloved classic and NOTHING BUT TROUBLE is Dan Aykroyd’s HUDSON HAWK.

    I love that Arnie killed more people in KINDERGARTEN COP than he did in T2.

  12. Why are you holding back on the details of the long awaited new addition to the revered POLICE ACADEMY franchise, Vern?

    Don’t act like you can’t afford IMDBPro. Or are you IMDBProfessionals not allowed to share the secrets of the other side of the paywall in this lowly forum? That must be it.

  13. I’m starting to wonder if this is one of those cases, where a movie plays so much better with European audiences than with American.

    Anyway, the more movies of 2001 Vern reviews, the more memories of that year come back to me. And believe me, on a personal level, 2001 was an awesome year. Pretty much last good one. It went downhill from there, but that’s a different topic.
    2001 though: Great year. Questionable in terms of movies, but a great year.

  14. BTW, usually I hate it when the German dubbing changes too much or add jokes where there originally aren’t any, but I’m still quoting the hilarious “translation” of Ethan Suplee’s “Cells are bad” homework. (“Zellen sind von Arsch”. It’s hard to translate. Verbatim it’s “Cells are from ass”, but it’s playing funnier in German grammar.)

  15. Mr. Majestyk,

    You are correct about Reitman. I did press for this movie and interviewed him. He is extremely intelligent but he is so far away from being funny.

    It’s strange about his career because he has produced some really good comedies over the last twelve to thirteen years, but he obviously chose not to direct those projects. Although, I will say that I watched No Strings Attached (please don’t ban me from the site, Vern) and it was actually a pretty entertaining movie. And it looked more like a movie than anything else Reitman has done since maybe Dave.

  16. This movie review seems like one of those rare Vern movie reviews where there is absolutely no point in leaving a reply with your thoughts. I think this movie gets 35 responses tops.

  17. Nothing But Trouble marked Tupac Shakur’s acting debut as well (as a member of Digital Underground). It was also probably the last movie where Chevy Chase was even semi funny.

  18. I think I saw this on dvd. Can’t remember hardly anything about it. Maybe I didn’t watch it. The trailer stuck in my mind though, because I was working in Blockbuster at the time and they had it on a loop for a month. It had Julianne Moore doing a really bad pleased-to-meet-you-Whoops-I’ve tripped over bit and every time it rooled around I thought ‘what? You deemed that a highlight of the movie so funny that it should be included in the advertisement of the film in order to attract audiences? Wow!’

  19. * rolled around, not rooled around.

  20. What world do we live in where anybody praises Nothing but Trouble?

  21. We’ve had two people (myself included) say nice things about it.

    Wait, you thought calling it Dan Aykroyd’s HUDSON HAWK was an insult?

  22. I read somewhere Evolution’s script by Don Jakoby (John Carpenter’s Vampires) was supposed to be straight horror, but they turned it into a comedy somewhere during development. And it shows, because it’s like they forgot the jokes. Hell, they forgot EVERYTHING – this is one laughless, thrill-less, basically merit-less movie. I’ll say it again – I would watch something that TRIES like Batman & Robin over this shit.

    And yes, re: the gorilla-aliens, that was actually kind of a good idea- that the aliens were evolving from cells to apes quickly, and I assumed that people-aliens or something would show up at the end – but instead all the creations morph into a big blob that walks off into the desert? Huh?

    And re: that ending – so they find out Head and Shoulders has the secret ingredient that can kill the aliens, and the aliens are conveniently now one blob, so they load a firetruck up with H&S and pump it into the blob, kill it, the end. That’s it. No obstacles, no roadblocks to overcome, no aliens put up a fight. They just come up with a plan and then do the plan. That’s easily the worst-written climax of the past 10 years.

  23. Oh wait. I misread Sternshein.

    Some people just like ambitious failures. They might not win the game, but we appreciate the hustle.

  24. one guy from andromeda

    June 20th, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Not to be an asshole, but the reason shitty american comedies play better with german audiences is that the germans have a very, very bad sense of humor (just take a look at germany’s top ten most successful movies ever – it’s mostly comedies, and they are ALL dreadful).
    I remember that Evolution was hyped a lot back then too, there were commercials everywhere. But for some reason they thought that the biggest part of the second half of the trailer should be spent showing a scene where Orlando Jones gets a colonoscopy and makes funny faces/sounds. Needless to say i didn’t go see the piece of shit.

  25. It must be true. It’s based on stereotypes AND science!

  26. I protest that. The French are way unfunnier than us.

  27. I remember looking forward to this movie. Maybe looking forward is too much, but I remember the previews giving me the same vibe I got from Galaxy Quest. Basically, Galaxy Quest was such an unexpectedly good and fun movie that I then started to think that maybe these types of movies could be surprisingly fun and deceptive. It wasn’t.

    I do remember its effects being pretty decent. Speaking of effects, is it just me or is Galaxy Quest’s effects still pretty decent? Maybe it’s because it has a light hearted tone and the effects match it but the effects look great still.

  28. Nothing But Trouble is a movie I’ve been meaning to see for a while, it sounds awesome to me, but I’m a big Dan Aykroyd fan, that lovable crazy guy (he’s really into aliens and stuff like that)

    also one guy from andromeda, I’m guessing you saw that recent episode of South Park too? (AWK waaaaaaaaaaaard!)

  29. Here’s how little I remember this movie. When I saw the title on the home page, I thought, “Is Vern throwing some indie movie in with the 2001 marathon? Oh yeah, that was that Ivan Reitman one.”

    Does the DVD actually say director of Road Trip? He produced Road Trip.

  30. I actually really liked Road Trip. Does that make me a child?

  31. one guy from andromeda

    June 20th, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    @griff: haven’t seen any southpark recently. do they comment on the german’s lack of humor?

  32. I kinda liked Road Trip too

  33. BTW: I remember loving My Super Ex-Girlfriend, thought it was a really intelligent satire of rom-coms and unhealthy relationships via superheroes. Haven’t seen it since to confirm. And No Strings Attached is a shockingly intelligent movie. The characters actually make good decisions and speak their mind, so there’s no stupid misunderstanding jokes.

    Count me as #3 Nothing But Trouble fan, though that shouldn’t surprise anybody here. Haven’t seen it since the 90s either but remember it being a cool house of horrors movie and just so fucking weird I couldn’t believe it came out under a studio with that cast.

  34. @one guy from andromeda – they had an episode where Germany builds a robot called “funnybot” to prove that they’re funny

  35. one guy from andromeda

    June 20th, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    @griff: sounds about right.

  36. It was a strange, Proustian experience to read that review and have the memories of that film come flooding back. Now that I remember the movie Evolution, I know for certain that Ghostbusters 3 would be a terrible, terrible idea.

  37. wasn’t Road Trip directed by Todd Phillips?

  38. That 35 comments prediction has been obliterated, and so we learn that Vern’s fanbase is loyal, slowly growing, and relatively chatty. I refuse to comment directly on EVOLUTION, however, because I consider it a “mutt nothing,” which is one of my favorite insults in my little circle of friends.

    It’s the cinematic equivalent of one of those shitty Chinese restaurants that can’t quite afford all the letters for its shitty “Deliv_ry/TakeOut Sesamy Chikn spec 4.99” sign and pops up in a nearby hood on the other side of the parking lot of a shitty laundromat and a shitty little convenience store/bodega that sells room temperature Coke in cans with dust on them. Stuff like EVOLUTION occasionally pops up between movies that are worthy of 2 paragraphs of Mouth’s bile.

  39. I’m actually pretty amazed that Duchovny has had such a decent career. He seems like he’s always bored in everything he does, at least in as much as I’ve seen him, and I think he lacks charisma. Yet he still seems like he’s always employed in something.

  40. one guy from andromeda

    June 20th, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    I don’t know if i would call it a decent career. His post X-Files movie career went nowhere and the only way to get people interested in his soft porn TV-show or whatever that thing is supposed to be was to publicly humiliate himself as a sex addict. (Looking him up right now i discover he won a golden globe in 07, so maybe it’s not that bad with his career. I also discovered that i spent too much time on David Duchovny though. So… whatever.)

  41. The robotic Duchovny is redeemed for only two things: The Rapture, a brilliant and creepy movie you all should see, and Kalifornia, a brilliantly stupid movie you all should see.

  42. Wow, you guys were a bit harsh on this one. Not TOO harsh, but a bit. Towards the end I remember it taking a turn for the truly terrifying, and then pulling back and just going completely dumb. It even has one of those moments that’s taken straight from “The Blob”, when the alien’s weakness is finally revealed in a massive jolt of anti-climax. (Or to quote my review of “The Blob”: “FIRE EXTINGUISHERS? WHAT THE UNHOLY FUUUUUUUCK?”)

    What almost makes “Evolution” worth watching is the few standout scenes. There’s one in particular I remember where a couple of old ladies mistake a giant slug-beast alien for a dog. And when the gorilla-aliens attack, it’s genuinely scary; it’s just a shame that they dumb the film down from there on in when they should be going for the jugular.

    Oh, and for the record, “Evolution” isn’t nearly as bad as “Road Trip”. Not even the insanely good DJ Qualls could save that movie.

  43. Oh yeah, and I agree with Casey: “Evolution” wasn’t in the same ballpark, league, or game, that “Galaxy Quest” was. “Quest” was an unexpected gem, “Evolution”… wasn’t.

  44. Duchovny can deliver dry humor pretty well. Unfortunately, not many people can write dry humor all that well. The X-Files gave him a chance to turn in a surprisingly complex character. Since that show I haven’t seen him in anything all that worthwhile, but given the right role I have no doubt he could deliver.

  45. To bring up both Evolution and Road Trip, I really kind of like Seann William Scott. He was okay in Evolution. I think he’s funny in Road Trip. I really liked The Promotion a lot. I think he was also really good in Role Models, which is a fairly funny comedy that is totally decent.

    I like the guy. I think he has charisma.

    Also, my bringing up Galaxy Quest was more about how a seemingly bad movie could end up being great and how I thought Evolution might do the same. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t awful, either.

  46. Also, I hear from a lot of friends that Californication is great. They seem to like it for reasons I wouldn’t, the way they talk about it makes it seem really proudly sexist, but I guess Duchovny might be good in that. I also wanted to like The X-Files but whenever I’d watch it I’d always end seeing a Big Foot episode instead of what looked like a pretty cool mythology episode.

    He’s not a huge star but he seems to be sticking around a lot better than many others and that kind of baffles me.

  47. count me as another person who watched Galaxy Quest when it came out on video expecting crap, but was happily surprised to learn that it was really good

    man, to think of all the ways they could have screwed that movie up, but didn’t, it’s weird that the director never went on to anything significant

  48. I was just saying that there are better and more awesome movies that struggle to get to 35 responses so I figured this one that nobody in the world likes or remembers had managed 50 responses. Although maybe 10% of them are actually about Evolution.

    Also, I’ve seen Nothing but Trouble like a lot and the only part I like is the Digital Underground scene.

  49. Grim Grinning Chris

    June 20th, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Duchovny was hysterical on the episode of SNL that he hosted. His Jeff Goldblum on CELEBRITY JEOPARDY makes me laugh just thinking about it.

  50. Jesus Vern, rip it to shreds why don’t you?

    We’re all entitled to our opinions. So I don’t feel bad when I tell you that I love to hate some of the reviews that you do.

    I liked this one a lot. Made me laugh. And laughter is the best medicine. Right? Just remember Vern that some movies you just don’t need to be cerebral about. If you got sucked up some giant alien butt hole I’d laugh the fuck at you too.

  51. I liked this when it came out. Mindless Saturday night entertainment. Nothing more, nothing less. Haven’t seen it since though. I still contend that anything with Julianne Moore is worth a look (even if she doesn’t get naked).

  52. Fucking Galaxy Quest is awesome, I want to throw my hat in that ring, with the other hats people weren’t needing. I was young when that came out and had grown up a Star Trek kid going to conventions and shit and that movie just hit all the right notes for me. Tony Shaloub and Sam Rockwell fucking kill it.

    The only thing I remember about my theatrical experience of Evolution is nothing, which really kind of says a lot about either the movie or my memory. But I’ve seen other movies and remember them very well, so I’m thinking this movie was kind of just a throw away stinker.

    Really the most surprising thing I’m picking up in this thread is that there are people out there who get enjoyment out of Nothing But Trouble.I thought that was a universally agreed upon Howard the Duck level failure.

  53. did Evolution flop in theaters btw? if it did I’m willing to bet one reason why is because many Americans find evolution an offensive concept comedy or not

  54. It did indeed flop, according to IMDB. $80MM budget, $38MM gross.

    It’s going back a while to remember this, because I’ve seen it once and, god willing, never will again, but the biggest problem I had was that it was trying to be GHOSTBUSTERS so hard it hurt. How can you respect a movie like that? Shit, you even have that “trying to be iconic” logo on the poster!

    They really did think we were idiots.

  55. caruso_stalker217

    June 20th, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    I remember I was about fourteen when I first read (on the IMDb) about this movie being in production. The synopsis made it seem like all life on Earth was evolving at an accelerated speed, which sounded like a really interested idea to me. Like if everybody on the planet was changing and turning into some weird super-evolved humans and shit. But then it turned out it was a shitty GHOSTBUSTERS re-tread. Disappointing.

  56. and the “trying to be iconic” logo was not only nowhere near as memorable as the Ghostbusters logom but was ripped off from a comic book

    on a side note I re-watched Ghostbusters on blu ray a few months ago and man, that is a perfect movie

  57. Galaxy Quest is for me the 2nd best movie of the 90’s. You might think it’s a little bit hyperbolic, but name any other movie of that decade with a script that works so well as parody, homage, hilarious comedy and exciting adventure (with a fucking scary and evil villain!) and features an equally pitch perfect cast! You can’t!

  58. Gilmore, good call on Kalifornia. I haven’t seen it since it came out in ’93, though it is on Blu-ray. I still remember how ridiculous it was. There was a random shot of two dogs humping, and one of the murder victims in a bathroom is taking out a tube which he pees through. Details which I guess would be provocative in a good movie, but standout as stupid in Kalifornia.

    I bet I watch it on Blu-ray now and think it’s brilliant.

  59. PaulWalker'sGunFetish

    June 21st, 2011 at 12:03 am

    I had to watch this movie like 5 times in middle school, this science teacher always played it whenever we were having one of those movie day things.

  60. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    June 21st, 2011 at 1:02 am

    A friend recommended this as being as good as Ghostbusters. So like a mug I went and watched it. I later spoke to my friend and asked him to watch it again, he never did, and neither did I. Many moons later I reminded him of his ludicrous claim and he couldn’t even remember watching it. Thats the problem with taking movie recommendations from pot heads.

  61. Humour’s a pretty personal thing, and just because some people doesn’t laugh at a movie like Evolution doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. It was a huge success here in Norway and got rave reviews from almost all the big newspapers. That said, we loved Nothing but Trouble and Howard the Duck too. As for Duchovny, based on his performance in Californication he’s one of the smartest comedians around right now. Damn, I love that show!

  62. yeah GALAXY QUEST is great. you know who’s really good in it but never gets mentioned? enrico colantini (i think that’s his name, he was on that crappy sitcom “just shoot me,” and i *think* he had a small part in A.I.). he played the main good alien guy that recruits the heroes. he does that weird sucking in air thingy when he talks, which is really unique and funny. it really is a lot of nice nuance, showing how he is not used to existing in the humanoid form or talking like a human. you can tell he completely brought that element to the character cuz none of the other actors playing people of his race do it, unfortunately.

    also, of course, it was the first time i was aware of sam rockwell, and he was a highlight.

  63. Colantoni was great in GALAXY QUEST. Everybody was! I must say it: GALAXY QUEST has the greatest cast in any comedy since GHOSTBUSTERS! It is filled with acting legends (Weaver, Rickman), TV comedians (Colantoni, Allen, Mitchell), actors with a long career as scene stealing supporters (Shaloub, Rockwell) and Justin Long. And they all share such a wonderful chemistry with each other, that is very hard to find in a movie.

    I think my favourite touch and something that is not very often talked about, is the ending. (Obvious spoiler) They crash with an alien spaceship into a building and in the next scene they got their own TV show. It’s like the writers just said: “Screw it, this is the perfect ending. We don’t need to show how they explain that UFO landing in front of thousands of people.” And it totally works!

  64. I’ll try to save Galaxy Quest thoughts for when that eventually gets its own board – but 1) Colantoni is great, and that torture scene is probably the most effective torture scene in a PG-rated movie, as well as a perfect example of how to put serious stuff in a comedy without doing a Tyler Perry-style jarring tonal shift. Also, 2) I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, the bad guy in Galaxy Quest (Sarris) is better than any of the Star Trek villains except Khan.

  65. Since Vern doesn’t really like to review comedies, we might never get a place to discuss GALAXY QUEST.
    And I agree with Neal Twozod. The torture gets me every time and Sarris is one great villain.
    Also I talked somewhere else about tonal shifts in comedies and how I hate them when they are badly executed. It’s true that GALAXY QUEST really belongs to the few comedies that are able to stop the comedy cold for a few moments to turn up the adventure, without spoiling all the fun. One more reason why I love it so much.

  66. what are some other comedies that pull that off? my mind is drawing a blank

    well the Back To The Future series has some really exciting moments, but it never really gets “dark”


  68. I thought about including Ghostbusters, but I don’t know…

    are you talking about comedies that simply have excitement in them or comedies with serious moments?

    Fright Night and Arachnophobia are great examples though

  69. vern has now hit 2/3 movies i saw in one day at the dollar theater in the summer of 2001, mummy returns and evolution. if he reviews POOTIE TANG, the final film i saw, which was a spectacular revelation that made the whole day worthwhile, i will be a happy man.

  70. actually i’m already a happy man i’ll just be happier i guess

  71. KISS KISS BANG BANG is all over the place but it still works as a piece.

  72. Not every comedy that has serious moments is the same. I mean TRAINSPOTTING is at the same time hilarious and depressing, but is a completely different kind of comedy than GALAXY QUEST, which remembers at the right time that its not just here to tell jokes, but also a story about some clueless actors, who have to become the heroes, that they were mistaken for, to survive. Even GHOSTBUSTERS turns for a few moments into a pretty scary movie.
    Actually, it’s hard to explain. There are real “dramedies”, that try to tell serious stories with sometimes more, sometimes less humor injected and it’s difficult to keep the balance. Like I said: TRAINSPOTTING. A film where someone dives in a toilet and steals the private sextape of his best friend, before we see a close up of a dead baby. It’s a great movie, but by the 2nd half you forget that it started as a comedy, although its tone never shifts THAT much.
    Man, I forgot what I wanted to say. I hope you get my point somehow. If not, I can’t blame you. Let’s just say that when a hilarious movie like GALAXY QUEST decides to start its last act with a brutal torture scene and even has characters dying, it’s is highly possible, that it could lose its audience immediately. But it didn’t. It gets serious without letting your forget that you watch a comedy and then it gets funny again, without letting you forget that the shit is about to get real.

    Fuck that. I’m sure someone else can explain that much better than me. Just like always.

  73. Vern, please make an exception one day and review GALAXY QUEST. Or at least tell us if you have ever seen it.

  74. I’m not sure if I think Trainspotting is a comedy. It has some funny moments but I think that’s more about trying to give the characters some humanity instead of treating them as props in a depressing drug drama. I always thought the funny moments were funny to make the drama more effective.

    I always felt a movie like Requiem For a Dream treated its characters like props in a drug induced tragedy. Trainspotting feels, to me at least, that it was about a group of characters where their being drug addicts is a big part of their life but they are still actual people underneath it.

    I’m thinking about this and while a lot of Trainspotting is played lightly it still focuses on some really awful, ugly, and depressing stuff. Not to make a huge tangent but I think The Hangover and its sequel are kind of similar in that a lot of moments that are funny feature scenes that are really awful and traumatic for the characters. I laughed at a lot of those scenes, although now I’m starting to rethink if I should, and I think Trainspotting was going for something similar but it doesn’t come off as funny to me because it is incredibly tragic throughout.

  75. This reminds me that one of my old friends worked on My Super Ex-Girlfriend. I asked him what it was like working with Reitman and he said he just a dirty old man more interested in working the casting couch – he said there were numerous female crewmembers obviously hired more for their looks than their abilities – than actually directing the movie.

  76. No, Trainspotting isn’t a comedy. It’s a dramedy.

  77. Jareth Cutestory

    June 21st, 2011 at 7:57 am

    one guy from andromeda: I’m not sure I agree with your reading of CALIFORNICATION, at least not entirely. Yes, Duchovney is subject to a degree of abuse and humiliation on the show for being something like a sex addict, but what’s fascinating about the show is that, depraved as the character is, he’s still considered a decent, moral man in a world that is far more depraved than he is. It’s a clever inversion of the far more familiar formula seen on TWO AND A HALF MEN: horndog guy actually has a heart of gold and the world is a decent place.

    Having said that, CALIFORNICATION isn’t an exceptional show or anything, and I agree that Duchovney tends to confuse some goofy notion of “cool” with “catatonic.” For my money, his best work was on the LARRY SANDERS SHOW. Creepiest motherfucker on the planet.

    Also, I don’t want to be a jerk, but I just don’t get GALAXY QUEST at all. You have to actually appreciate STAR TREK to like that film, right? It’s probably my fault for going into it thinking it was going to be subversive. Way too Disney for my tastes.

  78. I’m not a huge Star Trek fan. I liked it a lot as a kid but it’s not something I think about or go out of my way to see now. I’m not sure if that makes me more or less likely to enjoy Galaxy Quest.

    I liked Galaxy Quest because it took some familiar characteristics, portrayed them well, and put them into a fun adventure. I think it’s a fun movie. I also think it’s the kind of movie that could have either pandered or been mean spirited but instead was just really nice. I like nice movies. I also thought the special effects were solid and hold up well today, although I’m sure part of that is that they are slightly cartoony and fit the film well on that front.

  79. Jareth Cutestory

    June 21st, 2011 at 11:01 am

    That makes sense. And I agree it is a very nice film, very earnest. The way the film had been built up all these years, I was expecting Douglas Adams levels of wit and invention. Nope. Damn internet hyperbole.

  80. Jareth, the sex, the wit and the bizarre set ups make Californication quite exceptional. There really is no other show like it out there. It’s like Charles Bukowski crashing a party thrown by Bret Easton Ellis and giving the yuppie guests a piece of his dirty mind. Not many like that around. As for Galaxy Quest, I hate Star Trek and still found the movie hillarious. If it hadn’t been for Groundhog Day I would have named it the best comedy of the 90’s.

  81. Mac: “Just remember Vern that some movies you just don’t need to be cerebral about. If you got sucked up some giant alien butt hole I’d laugh the fuck at you too.”

    On behalf of Vern, OUCH.

    Trainspotting is a comedy?

    Another movie that I cited as having perfect “tonal shifts” is “Lost in Translation”. But you guys expected that.

  82. This discussion has finally pushed GALAXY QUEST to the top of my queue. I’ll be seeing it tomorrow, you praise-filled bastards.

    I remember CJ pushing this thing a long time ago in a talkback, calling it the most tragically misunderstood movie of the 90s or something. CJ, Your entire online persona & reputation will be judged by whether I enjoy GQ.

    Best comedy of the 90s? GROUNDHOG DAY is pretty great. I’m a big fan of BARCELONA, which, to contribute to the above discussion, handles tonal shifts brilliantly. Normally, movies that feature annoying behavior by privileged, overeducated or overwritten characters turn me off, but BARCELONA is awesome because the editing is perfect and compliments the comic timing of each character. The script is outstanding and the script’s delivery is perfect, in my opinion.

  83. I was dragged to see GALAXY QUEST by my then-girlfriend, expecting a trainwreck of SPACE JAM proportions. I ended up liking it a lot, and it wasn’t just because of my extremely low expectations. I’ve seen it a couple times since and it holds up. It’s a little better in pretty much every aspect than it really needed to be. It’s striving for excellence. Who directed it, by the way, and what happened to him? He should have been the Fred Dekker of the early oughts.

    That same girlfriend also dragged me to see LEGALLY BLONDE. Let us never speak of it again.

  84. I cleverly said nothing about the real premise of CRANK and led my then-kinda-girlfriend to believe that it was a boy-meets-girl or love story type movie. She hadn’t seen any previews, I guess, so she was uninformed and trusted me. She stopped calling me for a while after we saw that.

  85. In my former ladyfriend’s defense, we also saw CRANK together, and she liked it a lot more than LEGALLY BLONDE.

  86. Can’t remember calling GALAXY QUEST misunderstood, but yeah, I praise it whenever I can.
    Talking about misunderstood: I never called TRAINSPOTTING a comedy. I now mention the term “dramedy” for the xth time. I mean, it starts pretty crazy and has some seriously hilarious moments, before it goes darker and darker.
    Also GALAXY QUEST was directed by Dean Parisot, whose only theatrical work afterwards was the – from what I’ve heard terrible – remake of FUN WITH DICK & JANE. But he also directed the pilot of MONK.

  87. BTW, I just remembered that talking about Galaxy Quest in an EVOLUTION talkback is more than justified, because originally Ivan Reitman was set to direct it. He wanted Steve Martin to star, Martin declined, so Reitman quit.

  88. I never thought I’d say this…about anything…but Tim Allen was a better choice than Steve Martin.

    That felt weird.

  89. Griff, Back to the Future (your namesake I’m still convinced) has an attempted rape in it. That’s pretty dark. Although, I didn’t get that until I got older. When I was 8 it was just Biff being rough in a car.

  90. Mr. Majestyk – I checked on imdb earlier and the only other stuff the director of Galaxy Quest did was Fun With Dick And Jane and a bunch of tv episodes, a shame….

    Jareth Cutestory – not to drag this too off topic but I read the first Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy book and I was not too impressed, it was just a bit too misanthropic and pretentious for my tastes, like there’s a difference between wit and trying really hard to be witty

    plus he committed the book pet peeve of mine in that he wrote about a bunch of science fiction and space shit while providing almost no descriptions of what anything looks like, including the characters

    still I appreciate what an influence Douglas Adams had on internet culture (the titular Guide is basically a space Wikipedia), the guy was definitely ahead of his time

  91. well Fred, as I’ve said before this is my real name

    why can’t I be associated more with Griffin Dunne than Biff’s grandson? well most people think of Family Guy when I tell them my name so I guess it beats that

  92. Galaxy Quest is one of those movies where as I was watching it I kept waiting for it to start sucking but it never did. It eventually completely won me over by the halfway mark. This is one of those few movies that can actually put me in a good mood when I’m in a bad mood which is quite an accomplishment. Its rare when a parody/send up trumps 90% of the movies its parodying in all facets of movie making. Its also a very versatile movie. You can enjoy it on many levels (as sci fi, action adventure, parody, comedy, or all four).

    I kinda wish we hadn’t hyped this movie up so much since expectations are going to be sky high for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. I really feel this is one of those movies that has to sneak up on you in order to be fully appreciated. With that said, I still think anyone who sees it for the first time will really like it hype or no hype. Just ordered the Blu Ray for 12 bucks.

  93. I still think its a damn shame that Hollywood never really figured out how to make the most of David Duchovny’s deapan charm. The only film I’ve ever seen him in that I thought actually allowed him to live up to his potential is the surpisingly fantastic and little-seen Jake Kasdan comedy THE TV SET.

  94. Orlando Jones. Hoped that guy saved some of the money they paid him for this and the Time Machine.

  95. I saw Duchovny on Broadway doing a new LaBute play. He was outclassed by every other actor on stage.

  96. I only remember one joke from this movie that was remotely funny: in the earliest stages of the evolution process, Orlando Jones looks into a microscope and says “So… how many cells is a single celled organism supposed to have?” The insinuation being that the organism under the microscope now had more than one cell… oh forget it.

    GALAXY QUEST is 5x more clever, 10x funnier, and 100x better. It’s science.

  97. Griff, because Griff is awesome

  98. well in 2015 perhaps I’ll invest in a weird silver helmet

  99. Mr. M- Steve Martin as the voice of Buzz Lightyear? Yikes. Steve Martin hasn’t done anything remotely enjoyable in like fifteen years it seems. What was his last movie that people actually enjoyed? Dirty Rotten Scoundrels? Some people might say Father of the Bride but those people are mostly my mother. Come on Steve let’s do this Three Amigos sequel I’ve been hearing rumors about. What else you got going on? Banjos and pink panthers?

  100. dieselboy, you might enjoy THE SPANISH PRISONER.

  101. Aren’t Tim Allen and Steve Martin both David Mamet regulars now?

  102. I always get the impression with Steve Martin that he’s totally willing to star in whatever crappy remake, “family comedy”, or anything else for a paycheck so he can live a comfortable existence, play the banjo, look at art, and write.

    I can’t be too upset by that.

  103. dieselboy: I haven’t seen NOVOCAINE or SHOPGIRL, but don’t some people like those movies? In any case, L.A. STORY came out after DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS and I like that one. And I read a couple of his books and saw one of his short plays and enjoyed those. It’s just his recent movies that are atrocious, but like Casey said, he uses them to fund the things he really cares about so I can’t hate. If some offered me a couple mill once a year to make a stupid comedy so I could spend the rest of the year being awesome full-time, I’d do that shit in a heartbeat.

    As for Buzz Lightyear, you have to remember that I am a very recent convert to this whole Pixar cult you guys have going, but I’ve disliked Tim Allen for like 20 years now. It’s hard to reconcile the two. But then again, I like the TOY STORYs, GALAXY QUEST, and REDBELT, so maybe I don’t dislike Tim Allen after all.

    I…don’t know I feel about that.

  104. What Casey & Mr. M said, except I became pro-Pixar in 2004 with THE INCREDIBLES and pro-Brad Bird with RATATOUILLE in 2007. (If he does well with the MI movie, we’ll have a new directational superstar with unlimited badass & mainstream entertainment potential.)

    I’ve always disliked Tim Allen, and the baffling popularity of that awful “Home Improvement” show, coupled with his terrible roles in terrible movies in the 90s & early oughts, made me hate him. Then the Mamet connection in REDBELT made me question my hatred, but now that Mamet has gone insane with his public conversion to right-wingism maybe I can learn to hate Tim Allen again.

  105. Oh shit. Mamet’s conversion is kind of making me look at REDBELT in a new light, and it’s not a light I like. It’s like one of them flickering flourescents like in SAW or THE DMV (not an actual horror movie title, though it should be) that makes everyone look gangrenous. What if REDBELT was actually saying, “This is what happens when you try to help people. You end up broke and your friends die and your wife leaves you for someone richer and you have to fight a bunch of dudes just for a strip of cloth from some old dude who wasn’t established very well earlier in the movie. Is that what you want, hippie?”

    I don’t like that reading at all.

  106. Yeah, I’ve seen and read a lot of David Mamet’s political speech lately and I think I’m no longer going to go out of my way to watch anything he does.

    It isn’t that he has stupid beliefs but that he’s getting mean spirited and ugly about those stupid ideas.

  107. Damnation.

    You may find solace, and I’m not the only one who is hoping for this to be the case, in the prospect that Mamet is doing a Joaquin Phoenix-like performance. He’s faking the funk and will eventually shine a light on just how stupid some people were to believe the ridiculous gibberish he’s been spewing the last few years. Michael Medved, Glenn Beck, & The Weekly Standard are gonna look stupider than usual, hopefully just a few weeks before the next round of elections, when Mamet takes off his Conservamask and uses their own words to dismantle their ideology.

    Until then, Christopher Hitchens’s recent NYT review of Mamet’s latest book is a brilliant takedown, marked by the surprising restraint & tact shown by Hitch as much as by its utter annihilation of the reviewed author’s inanity.

  108. EVOLUTION was the 2nd movie I considered walking out of.

    First was SATURN 3 but, y’know, Farah Fawcett.

    At least David Duchovny is watchable in CALIFORNICATION.

  109. I would never walk out of a movie. I even stayed during a surprise screening of MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE. I did consider walking out of DIE HÄUPTER MEINER LIEBEN, a horrible German “dark comedy” about a trio of women who have been disappointed by men so often, that they from now on kill every man who disappoints them.
    I also try to watch EVERY movie till the end, although I did turn off MOULIN ROUGE and UNDERWORLD after 30- 40 minutes. (And the sound of 300, which made it at least a little bit watchable. Although I started to do stuff on the computer for most part of the 2nd half.)

  110. My only movie walkout ever: I didn’t know ahead of time she was in the movie, and as soon as I saw Barbra Streisand in LITTLE FOCKERS, I had to exit.

    It’s no secret I dig musicals and music icons and other stuff normally enjoyed by a more fruity demographic in movies, but these days my rule is, if Streisand shows up, I walk.

  111. Jareth Cutestory

    June 22nd, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Griff: I wonder if you’d see it as an insult that I associate your name not with Griffin Dunne or Biff, but with Al Bundy’s co-worker at the shoe store.

  112. Mouth — thanks for the heads-up on the Hitchens article. Explaining why Mamet is a confused, angry man is shooting fish in a barrel (almost makes you pine for David Zucker!), but Hitchens makes it a very entertaining fish hunt with his effortlessly devestating politeness. And cherrypicking the most inane lines from the book is endlessly amusing. Seriously, that bit comparing the BP leak to the wiki leak is so stunningly idiotic on every conceievable level that I almost have to give serious thought as to whether Mamet is indeed pulling a Juaquin Pheonix maneuver on us.

  113. First timer here chiming in on the act of walking out (I don’t know why that compelled me to voice my opinion instead of, say, summat innaresting) : only time I ever did was at a dollar-theatre with some pals in a drunken the-fuck-we-do-tonight? mood, we were there to catch… SON OF THE MASK. Oh… man… I might’ve developped some slow-brewing colon-cancer from all of the 27 minutes we spent watching it.

  114. I meant to do this earlier, but here’s a Pearl Jam “Do The Evolution” reference

    admire me, admire my home, admire my son, he’s my clone!

    this land is mine, this land is free, I’ll do what I want but irresponsibly!

    it’s evolution baby!

  115. I watched some of this today and yup, it’s still shit.

    It depresses me though because there was a lot of potential for this one, the premise is neat and the creatures are neat looking, but man, everything else about the movie is just so damn lazy, with a better cast, better jokes and better directing this could have been a worthy 2000’s successor to GHOSTBUSTERS, but it fails miserably.

    I guess this depresses me so much because well, why shouldn’t the 00’s have it’s own equivalent of GHOSTBUSTERS that doesn’t suck? It’s like in the 00’s we get something similar to GHOSTBUSTERS but shitty and now in the 2010s we just get GHOSTBUSTERS again, nothing new, nothing worthy as a successor, I can’t help but feel like the 21st century is completely getting short shrifted culture wise, you know what I mean? We deserve better.

  116. Also, I never made this connection before, but this movie reminds me a lot of SMALL SOLDIERS, which was another Dreamworks movie where a director tried to recapture his 80’s glory.

    SMALL SOLDIERS is at least a bit better than EVOLUTION though.

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