Evolution DVD Review

Some movies are an unqualified success. Others try to make themselves out to be. Take "Evolution," Ivan Reitman's first foray into sci-fi comedy since "Ghostbusters II." It's a fairly standard and predictable summer movie, yet it spawned a short-lived cartoon series (produced by Reitman) and a video game. Only in Hollywood.

A meteor makes its home right here on Earth and brings with it quickly evolving life forms. Of course these never-before-seen creatures intend to make the planet their permanent home (and not to our benefit) unless a small group of scientific minds along with a failed firefighter (Sean William Scott) can do something about it. Their problem lies with the military that refuses to allow them access and time is quickly running out.

"Evolution" has a one key problem. It doesn't know what it wants to be. The original script was actually a serious drama based off of a scientific theory that every time a meteor of monumental size hits our planet, it brings with it new life. Ivan Reitman rewrote most of that script, but almost all of the "that makes absolutely no sense" science remains and it takes up far too much screen time. In fact, you almost have to believe they take the audience for idiots a few times as theories get repeated multiple times.

When the movie is on, it's really on. A few scenes are just hilarious, but it's too sporadic. Yes, it can be compared to "Ghostbusters" on a few levels, but without the perfect chemistry those actors had, it does fall flat comparatively. Scott and Orlando Jones take over most of the comedy and Julianne Moore is funny as the klutzy CDC representative. Out of place is David Duchovny who just seems lost in a few scenes and takes the role a little too seriously.

Creature designs are spectacular in this movie and the CG is amongst the best you'll ever see. At times is does look overly fake and glossy, but the majority is just about perfect. Take into account that most of the movie occurs in broad daylight and you have quite the accomplishment.

This is a movie that tries hard, has all the right ingredients, but just fails to come together in the end. It drags quite a bit and starts off even slower. Why we got this instead of a third sequel to the great "Ghostbusters" series really doesn't make sense. Maybe one more re-write would have finally put this movie where it should have been. It's enjoyable but still a disappointment. (*** out of *****)

DreamWorks presents the movie in 1.85:1 widescreen and I've never seen a pan & scan version so lets hope one doesn't exist. This one starts off being wildly inconsistent. Upon entering the cave containing the space-born object for the first time, Duchovny and Jones are completely obscured by some of the worst grain you'll ever find on the format. Most of the early moments seem plagued by the same problem, just not to that extent. Thankfully, the scenes shot in daylight are just about flawless with a few minor moments of edge enhancement thrown in to knock it a notch away from perfection. There's little to complain about once this one gets going. (****)

Two separate audio tracks are available, 5.1 and DTS 5.1. This is a very loud mix so be extremely careful early on. The LFE channel will take a jolt when the meteor makes a landing and it could easily ruin a system not well equipped for it or one set too loud. Besides the bass, there is literally nothing wrong with the audio. Each speaker is used frequently and effectively throughout with the DTS track getting the nod as usual. The scene in the mall is a great example as the bird, uh, thing takes flight all around the sound field. (*****)

This disc is a little light on features, but most of what's included is worthwhile. A feature-length commentary track (the menu might make you think it's just an interview of sorts) with Reitman, Duchovny, Jones, and Scott is the highlight here. These guys obviously not only had a great time with the movie, but have a lot of fun talking about it as well.

Six deleted scenes, each with an introduction from Reitman, are included along with a much better alternate ending. Supposedly a test screening audience hated it and it was cut. Typical. Fifteen minutes is spent with an "HBO First Look" entitled "The Evolution of Evolution." It's standard fare hosted by Orlando Jones with some nice footage, but it's nothing we haven't seen before. A 10-minute featurette looks at the special effects with special effects whiz Phil Tippett getting some screen time.

Fans of the storyboarding process can look at how six scenes came together either along or alongside the final shot. The rest of the disc is the usual round of cast & crew information and production notes. Odd and rather ridiculous, the production notes are exactly the same as the insert that comes with the disc. (****)

Even if it's not the most overly entertaining movie of all time, you can certainly find a worse way to kill a 100 minutes. Then again, you could just pop in "Ghostbusters" for the 34th time too. Come on guys, you made us suffer through three "Scary Movies" but you can't make a third film from an 80's classic? That's weak.

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