Volume 95, Issue 32
Tuesday, October 30, 2001
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
K-PAX is original escapism
Kevin Space-y takes film out of this worldSuzanne Tenner/Universal
BEAM ME UP, SCOTTIE! He's not ALF, he's not ET, but Kevin Spacey is one alien with human headaches in the new movie, K-PAX
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Alfe Woodard
Directed By: Iain Softley
Four stars (out of five)
By Chad Finkelstein
It's a pity movie-goers have to wait for films like K-PAX in order to see some thoughtful and original entertainment.
Over the last half-decade, Hollywood has resorted to making two types of movies.
The first is the grand, sweeping epic, warranting Oscar consideration solely on the basis of its marathon length. This is an artsy playing field where three hours is for lightweights.
The second style dominates the majority of Hollywood's production the loud, expensive, spectacularly stupid movies where special effects, rather than human beings, draw the crowds.
These sometimes make for bearable Tuesday night filler, but generally assume so little of the audience's intelligence, they leave the viewers feeling like their money just went towards a lobotomy. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a middle ground.
That is, until now.
K-PAX may not be fantastic and it may not blow your mind, but it isn't going to frustrate you either. K-PAX is, simply put, good.
The film is pure escapist entertainment that lets the audience enjoy the movie without killing their brain cells or requiring them to search the cosmos of pseudo-thought to find some deeper meaning.
The story begins as Prot (Kevin Spacey) makes some police officers uncomfortable enough to ship him off to Dr. Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges) at the Psychiatric Institute of Manhattan.
Prot is an alien from the planet K-PAX, approximately 1,000 light years away from Earth. He's been touring galaxies and the hospital is a must-see tourist stop for him during his study of human behaviour.
Obviously, everybody is skeptical and immediately writes Prot off as delusional. But Prot does not respond to the heavy medications they give him. More than that, he starts curing patients more effectively than doctors ever have.
Dr. Powell calls Prot the most convincing delusional he's ever seen and remains skeptical until Prot manages to solve every galactic discrepancy that has plagued the world's best astronomers for centuries.
He has a knowledge, a method and a character that forces those around him to question their most grounded beliefs.
For the first half of the movie, Prot quickly and dramatically reveals all of the little tricks and nuances a "K-PAX-ian" is capable of. Much like Dr. Powell, the more Prot puts on display, the more you'll believe the possibility he's of extra-terrestrial origin.
Prot's journey is actually a lot of fun and it's backed by a subtle, electronic soundtrack.
Once it becomes time to truly discover Prot's identity, the movie becomes less fantastical and more plot-oriented. This includes a hypnosis sequence that viewers may or may not buy, but the movie playfully tests your patience enough that this kind of departure from practicality doesn't seem intrusive.
K-PAX does not fall into the overused categories of "feel-good" or "triumph of the human spirit." Yes, the underlying message about the importance of family is obvious and overdone, but that's not the point.
K-PAX is a hopeful piece of fantasy that, for a change, uses its simplicity as an advantage rather than a deficit.
Copyright © The Gazette 2001