Wayne Green (Seann William Scott), a wannabe fireman, is out in the Arizona desert, practicing for his big exam. Just as he sets a little shack on fire, a meteor hits. Harry Block (Orlando Jones, still best known as the '7-Up Guy' despite a handful of feature film roles), the community college geology professor, drags his friend, Ira Kane (David Duchovny), the community college biology professor, to the site. Kane soon realizes that the meteor contains organisms which are evolving very rapidly. Three days later, little alien creatures have begun to appear. The Army soon takes over and Dr. Allison Reed (Julianne Moore), of the CDC, becomes an unwitting liaison between the professors and the government. Soon, things get out of hand.
The story sounds promising. It could make a great summer comedy in the vain of "Ghostbusters", perhaps Reitman's most famous film. It has all of the elements of "Ghostbusters": otherworldly creatures, smart-alecky adults, some funny lines, loads of special effects. This is where the problem lies. "Evolution" simply recycles all of these characteristics without adding a new dimension. Duchovny plays the Ackroyd and Ramis roles, Jones the Murray role, Scott the Moranis role and Moore plays a pale comparison of the Sigourney Weaver role. "Evolution" also lacks a crucial element: character development.
Kane starts out as the scientific, smart, wise-cracking professor. At the end of the film, he is the same character. Throughout the film, we are supposed to recognize that he and Dr. Reed have a building sexual attraction. As neither character evolves, how can a relationship build between them. They start out as adversaries and don't seem to grow any closer.
The biggest flaw with all of the characters is that they are all the same. Good guys and villains alike are all bumbling, stupid and reckless. The trailer for the film contains a shot of Julianne Moore stumbling on some steps. This is repeated at least four times in the film. This is her major comedic contribution to the film. Scott has made a career of playing characters that have less than a full deck. He doesn't really add anything to the character this time. Jones has the majority of the funny lines, but many of the lines are based on character flaws which are really not given any depth. Bill Murray's Peter Venckmann was an extremely smart-alecky skirt chaser. The first scene featuring his character shows him testing a nerd and a beautiful student. The situation is hilarious. Remarkably, "Evolution" introduces Jones' character in much the same way with poor results.
As I watched "Evolution", I wondered how a film about aliens evolving very quickly could feel so long. I have to fault director Reitman for this. The film seems to plod along. Its difficult to pinpoint exactly why, but I have the sense that Reitman was going through the motions. There is very little sense of energy as the characters are running around.
"Evolution" also features one of the strangest product placements I have ever seen. "Pearl Harbor" had Coke bottles used for IVs. "Evolution" has... Well, to reveal it would spoil the ending. Hollywood seems to be in a phase in which they believe that a product placement is OK, as long as you make fun of it. Sorry, product placements this blatant are still annoying.