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Overall Rating

Awesome: 15%
Worth A Look: 22.5%
Pretty Bad: 15%
Total Crap: 8.75%

4 reviews, 56 user ratings

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by Rob Gonsalves

"Is Kevin Spacey a real alien? Well, yeah -- but is he playing a real alien?"
2 stars

In this corner, a man who claims to be an alien from an advanced culture many light years away -- is he crazy or not? In that corner, a movie audience watching the mystery unfold -- do we care or not?

K-PAX, a psychological-metaphysical fable starring Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges, certainly stacks the deck in its favor by casting Spacey as the mystery man and Bridges as the affable, sincere shrink straining to unlock his secrets. But it's such obvious casting, and halfway through K-PAX I began to wish the roles had been reversed. Spacey can do hipster inscrutability; Bridges can do strenuous compassion. Tell us something we don't know; show us something we haven't seen.

Some of K-PAX, mainly the scenes in which Spacey and Bridges smoothly workshop together in long dialogue passages (and that's exactly what it feels like -- two fine actors doing an enticing yet unchallenging actors'-workshop piece to limber up), keeps us tuned into the proceedings. That's more than can be said for the fashionably brooding direction (by Iain Softley, of BackBeat and The Wings of the Dove) and the each-revelation-in-its-place script by Charles Leavitt (by way of Gene Brewer's novel), both working overtime to strike a balance between the fantastic and the realistic. This being a Hollywood movie, the realistic is soon left out on the curb as quickly as a Christmas tree on December 26, and as mournful-looking.

The alleged alien, who says his name is Prot, is sent to good Dr. Mark Powell for evaluation and sometimes-amusing verbal ping-pong. Dr. Powell isn't all good: he neglects his wife (Mary McCormack, as fetchingly long-suffering here as she was as Howard Stern's wife in Private Parts) and children even in the best of times, and when Prot bedevils the doctor's reason, the wife is left sighing resentfully in adjoining rooms while Dr. Powell lingers over Prot's recorded voice. (Compare the dishwater tension here with the very real and intense fear and loathing Teri Garr flashes at the E.T.-obsessed Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and see how far even mainstream Hollywood extraterrestrial fables have fallen.)

Prot, of course, meets Dr. Powell's family and even advises him to make amends with his estranged college-age son; Prot is brimming with unconventional helpfulness, becoming a calming guru for his fellow patients at the Manhattan mental institution where he resides (in a unisex ward, apparently). Prot heals whomever he touches, if they are faithful enough (or addled enough) to take up his mission; he's a messiah for the Thorazine set. At no point does the movie toy with the possibility that Prot may be a truly dangerous delusional, though we get one or two uptight meanies (including Alfre Woodard in a thankless role) who perceive him as such. Whether Prot is truly a visitor from K-PAX or a benevolent loon, we're meant to believe in his essential goodness, cleanliness, and Hollywoodness.

K-PAX plays rather cavalierly with real mental illnesses in a way that strikes me as disingenuous at best and faintly offensive at worst, and may be even more so for those who actually work with the mentally ill. A germphobic (Saul Williams) and an obsessive-compulsive (David Patrick Kelly, sadly neutered here of any wildness he's shown before) are each "cured" by Prot's soothing words and "tasks," including one that seems to endorse attempted strangulation as brute therapy. All the hints that lead to Prot's own breakthrough seem murky and inconsistent, too -- he overreacts to a lawn sprinkler in a way that makes you think he's a psychic who foresees a sprinkler-related catastrophe, but no, it's connected to a forced-seeming flashback; he regresses under hypnosis and spouts a lot of stuff that doesn't seem to have much to do with the final revelation, which feels like reheated Fisher King.

The movie's last stab at ambiguity is neatly handled, but the image we're left with is an immobile Kevin Spacey smuggling in the tiniest smirk of private amusement to let us know he's still in there. That speaks for the rest of the film.

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originally posted: 01/18/07 14:47:10
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User Comments

1/22/17 viewer Kevin Spacey has great comments on humanity. 5 stars
11/09/13 bored mom He's definitely possessed by an alien entity. Seeing UV light is NOT fucking human. 3 stars
6/29/13 I Have Seen This Film And It Is AWESOME 5 stars
3/09/10 proooot...ops, sorry gee this movie was a real laxative,state of the toilet 1 stars
12/09/09 Bobby Horrible, cheesy 1 stars
6/06/09 Peter Great film, dont think about the acting, think about the questions/facts 5 stars
9/23/06 Charles Tatum Shockingly good thinking man's sci-fi; a true gem 5 stars
7/30/06 Ronin Quite good, but not if you're in some "action" mood 4 stars
10/12/05 Quigley a great film that really makes you think. definitely worth seeing 5 stars
8/01/05 R.W. Welch Has some holes, but manages to hold you most of the time. 3 stars
5/08/05 Bluto Could have been Better with these two leads 3 stars
4/15/05 HL A mediocre Sci-fi film. Spacey worth the watch. 3 stars
12/22/04 sweetgrrl1972 ZZzzzzZZZZzzzzzZZZZZzzzz 1 stars
5/16/04 KRG1 A great film...Acting and story are superb...Novel is great..A must see 5 stars
3/25/04 thejames Spacey is good, bridges blows, movie worth a watch 4 stars
1/24/04 Elena This film was such a great concept but it was only an okay film. 4 stars
6/17/03 Erin I thought it had potential. It was dull. 2 stars
6/03/03 Goofy Maxwell A script that should've been left on the mental ward floor. 2 stars
5/18/03 Mystique good 4 stars
3/21/03 Jack Sommersby Good performances; asinine scripting. 2 stars
3/17/03 Peter This movie was great, and left so many possible interpretations after the ending... 5 stars
2/11/03 Ubu the Ripper Fabulous. Spacey and Bridges are tremendous. Definitely worth a sequel. 5 stars
2/10/03 Pinkline Jones A monumental eye-glazing event. Spacey shines like a black hole 1 stars
2/09/03 Flick Chick very interesting. 4 stars
10/16/02 Alien Very good movie that exposes how psychiatry sucks. 4 stars
7/26/02 Paul Close to what its all about! 4 stars
6/02/02 Chris No masterpiece but a intellgant drama. My friends and I are still discuss the ending. 4 stars
5/21/02 J Its ending was somewhat questionable, over than that it was great. 4 stars
5/14/02 Piz Interesting film that gets a little dopey and trivial at the end. 3 stars
4/30/02 Bookcrazy I really liked this film. 4 stars
4/23/02 Shelley Smith Started off well but after awhile I knew exactly where it was going. Boring! 3 stars
4/18/02 Monday Morning If you liked this, go rent Starman and see J.B. in a terrific film. 4 stars
4/11/02 Natalie Stonecipher K-Pax a planet? Or Martha Stewart - endorsed tampons? 3 stars
4/05/02 Chris K. Hollywood, why can't you make more movies like this? K-PAX, now that's a movie! 5 stars
4/01/02 Film Guy Good First Half but got boring and depressing 3 stars
2/14/02 Adam Bovie Plot = Average+. Kevin Spacey = Fscking Awesome. See it for Kevin's deadpan humor. 4 stars
12/26/01 Roy Smith One Alien Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest - bah humbug! 2 stars
12/03/01 Awsome film, made you think, a good family film. 5 stars
11/19/01 ajay just ok. 3 stars
11/12/01 Matthew Peters An ending that lets you make your own conclusions, or leaves your questions unanswered 4 stars
11/05/01 Will nifty use of light. ending tries to be ambiguous but fails at that, IMHO 4 stars
11/04/01 poetchuck Good guessing until almost the end 4 stars
11/04/01 Gil Carlson Just Average (disappointing so) 3 stars
11/02/01 Bob Robertson The first half was funny, but it got depressing and was too long. 3 stars
11/02/01 Kevin Kraus Plagiarism, a rip off of Subiela's 1986 film, "Man Facing Southeast". 3 stars
10/31/01 K-PAXIAN Hated it 1 stars
10/30/01 silent great acting & wonderfully shot. some of you need to learn to watch for more than plot. 4 stars
10/30/01 Bud Spacey & Bridges were great, you will talk about this one, you will think about this one. 5 stars
10/29/01 Thor-Leo Go see "Happy Accidents" instead 2 stars
10/29/01 gromm If you like your movies to be made all nice and neat with no mystery left, avoid this. 4 stars
10/29/01 spaceworm Subtle Jeff, as usual, is the movie's key strength. Mr. Underrated... 4 stars
10/27/01 Thai Not Bad but not good 3 stars
10/27/01 Jeff Rigoni Kevin Spacey===POMPOUS ANAL PUNISHER. I'd rather fist my dog than watch K PAX again. UGHHH 1 stars
10/18/01 Greyjack Two words: "Ham" and "fisted". Put a hyphen in the middle. Ah well, at least had OK acting. 2 stars
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  26-Oct-2001 (R)



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