Every cause, from recycling to animal rights, has its celebrity spokesman. Now we can add Ivan Reitman to their ranks, for he is the champion of mad scientists. His latest comedy might be all about the natural development of life forms (albeit accelerated), but Reitman has applied the very latest Hollywood gene-splicing techniques to Evolution. Thrusting the plot of his own Ghostbusters into a test tube, he's added elements of Men In Black and some leftover man-fat from a Farrelly brothers set, switched the mixer to "churn" and let the breeding begin... The result? His most entertaining laugh-generator in a long time.
After one or two mutant babies (Fathers' Day and Junior should have been shot at birth), Reitman has returned to a working formula. Indeed, Evolution is so much like Ghostbusters that it's a wonder he doesn't sue himself for copyright infringement. The plot's there, the sliming gags are present and correct - - even portly Dan Aykroyd briefly pops up. If he'd been able to rope in Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson and Harold Ramis, fans would've had the third Ghostbusters they've been praying for all this time...
But that's not to ignore the contribution of Evolution's stars. While David Duchovny doesn't stray too far from his usual dry, witty persona, he does show flashes of other comic sides (including, in one ad-libbed moment, his arse), while he and the superb Orlando Jones work well as a double act. Julianne Moore and Seann William Scott are less well served, however, as respectively the aloof-yet-clumsy scientist whose heart Duchovny wins and yet another watered-down version of American Pie's Stifler. To their credit, though, they make both roles likeable without it feeling like they're just there to make up the numbers.
Of course, since this is the era of the gross-out comedy, there are some bodily fluid/ fart/anal probe jokes thrown in for questionable measure. But Reitman uses them sparingly, so they never overwhelm the plot or feel bolted on for shock value. The shocks come instead from some genuine scares, which are most likely skin-jumpers left over from the script's genesis as a straight, Michael Crichton-esque sci-fi thriller.
Strip away the recycled story structure and goo gags, and Evolution still manages to hold its head up high among recent comedies. If it really comes down to survival of the fittest, this strong specimen has nothing to worry about.
It ain't the next evolutionary step in comedy, but it is very funny in places (the Ghostbusters comparisons might be unfair, but they're impossible to ignore). Yet despite feeling like a lesser genetic offshoot, Evolution holds up well under microscopic scrutiny.