Despite what the advertising campaign tries to sell you, this is not another “Ghostbusters.” It may have the same director, but remember that he is also responsible for turkeys like “Father’s Day.” It tries for the same mix of scary stuff, special effects, and comedy, but without Bill Murray, the Sigourney Weaver possession, and the giant marshmallow guy, it never really takes off.
There are some good moments, though, as Ira (David Duchovney, doing a nice tweak on his “X-Files” character) and Harry (Orlando Jones, quickly becoming one of the screen’s most reliable comic talents), two community college professors, discover that a mysterious meteor is covered with one-celled alien creatures who can accomplish evolutionary development in days that took millions of years on earth. They try to keep it to themselves, hoping for fame and fortune (“Is the Nobel Prize paid in installments?” asks Harry). But the government steps in and takes over. A nasty general and a beautiful doctor named Allison (Julianne Moore, whose entire part seems to consist of tripping) are now in charge. One-time ghostbuster Dan Ackroyd stops by as the governor who is willing to nuke his state to get rid of the aliens. With the help of a would-be fireman (Seann William Scott) and some overweight students with dandruff-free hair, Ira and Harry manage to save the world.
There are moments of inspired silliness — I loved seeing Duchovney and Jones singing “Play That Funky Music White Boy” and Scott singing “You Are So Beautiful.” Jones gives so much zest to weak material that one longs to see him in something better. But neither the sci-fi nor the comedy are strong enough to sustain the movie. No one expects or even wants a movie like this to make sense, but it is so sloppy (a biology professor is teaching the periodic table? Is that last scene hours or days after the one before it?) that it is actually distracting. And even the good guys are not that good, caring more about credit and getting out of Arizona than about science or protecting people from the aliens. It is interesting how often someone in the movie tells someone else to focus — that would have been good advice for the director and screenwriter. And please, please, please, can we find another song to use the next time we want to show chaos and desctruction? Rob Zombie has become the rock and roll equivalent of the previously inescapable Carmina Burana.
Parents should know that the movie has some strong language and very raunchy toilet humor, with two extended sequences featuring rectal probes. There is sexual humor and mild sexual situations. Characters drink and smoke. Characters are in sci-fi peril, mostly comic. Guns and shooting are equated with manliness. A woman shoplifts and another holds up a sign that says “I can’t die a virgin.” Female and black characters are smart, brave, and accomplished, and inter-racial colleagues have a strong friendship. But there is an unpleasant joke about how all a female character needs is “a good humping,” and, to make things worse, she overhears the comment and is insulted not because it is sexist but because it implies that she is not sexual.
Families who see this movie should talk about evolution and natural selection, and about how Ira got in to trouble and how he reacted to it. Why didn’t he care more about his job? What would happen if aliens did come to Earth?