by Jeremy Browne
Alien movies worry me. Not in the traditional sense -- I don't worry about interplanetary travelers exploding out of my chest cavity or hovering over the White House in their gigantic craft. No, what worries me is the kind of alien movie that whispers "heartwarming, hearttttwaaaarrrmmming," like warm syrup in your ear. And the trailers for K-PAX indicated that this movie might be just that. Kevin Spacey's mugging and Jeff Bridges' playing the quizzical straight man should have warned me, but being a big fan of Spacey's, I had to go.
I admit, I had fun, but in a critical sense I was also irritated by how this movie shamelessly ripped off so many other films. Starman, which starred Jeff Bridges as a gentle alien 15 years ago, is the most obvious one, but there are also parallels to E.T., Awakenings and even One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in the representation of the psychiatric profession practiced by Bridges and the mental hospital where he works. The normally excellent Alfre Woodward is wasted as the hospital's head honcho, and Spacey veers dangerously close to Robin Williams' territory at times. Most irksome of all is the film's trite message -- "sometimes it takes a cuddly, funny alien to show us how to be truly human" -- which is something we've all seen dozens of times before.