K-PAX

K-PAX

Or, "Mork from Ork stars in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".

I didn't know much about this film before I saw it, except that Kevin Spacey plays a guy who may or may not be a visitor from outer space, Jeff Bridges plays the psychiatrist assigned to him, Spacey eats an entire banana, peel and all, and it's probably one of those life-affirming "dramedies". So I took a chance, figuring it could be stupid or it could be beautiful. And guess what? It's stupid.

Actually, K-PAX (named after the planet Spacey says he's from) isn't really stupid, it's just a string of sequences that continually test the audience's willingness to suspend disbelief. For starters, the moment Spacey's character Prot (pronounced "Prote") bumps into a cop in New York's Grand Central Station and mentions that he's from another planet, he's handcuffed and whisked off to a well-funded psychiatric ward. This, in a city full of thousands of mentally ill people on the streets! And of course the ward is populated by the kind of lovable, hygienic, and articulate loonies we only see in movies. Nobody's soiling their pants or drooling or cutting themselves in this genteel sanitarium.

To make matters worse, the story doesn't know what it's trying to be. At first it seems like magic realism: we are shown, over and over, so many instances where Prot is obviously an alien - he can perform mathematical equations unknown to even America's brightest astrophysicists, he can communicate with dogs, he cures his fellow patients in a matter of days - that it seems silly for Bridges to keep insisting that Prot is actually a delusional human being. But then, in the time it takes to say "Aha! So there is something going on!" Prot freaks out after an innocuous event at a party, and the good doctor decides to put him under hypnosis to find out who he really is. Why didn't he think of that earlier? Because, that's why.

At that point, the film becomes another tiresome "therapy picture", where the key to a character's inner turmoil can only be brought out by a clever shrink asking the right questions. We've seen it before - Good Will Hunting, Ordinary People, Hitchcock's Spellbound, etc. And as expected in this genre, Kevin Spacey gets to do lots of actorly over-emoting during his hypnosis sessions. The solution to the mystery of Prot's past is as predictable as it is implausible. Ho hum.

Can't say much good for K-PAX. This is the kind of Hollywood dreck that shamelessly begs for Oscar nominations. See Jeff Bridges do the alien thing himself in Starman instead.