Profile: Stop me if you've heard this one—burnt-out college profs chase otherworldly beings in an action-comedy that is curiously lacking in action and is not the least bit funny. Think Ghostbusters grinding its gears meets Men in Black meets Ghostbusters doing 25 mph in a 65 mph zone meets Tremors meets Ghostbusters dropping its tranny.
Symptoms: Evolution director Ivan Reitman also directed—surprise!—Ghostbusters. I haven't seen someone so blatantly and unsuccessfully rip himself off since Robin Williams sued himself for plagiarism. Hey, if you're going to steal, steal the good stuff. Reitman sets up all the basics—disaffected, wisecracking heroes; slimy creatures; small-minded, tightly wound establishment types—but forgets the payoffs. There is not a single surprise and there are very few laughs in this movie. We know who's going to fall in love, on whom most of the goo will fall when the giant goo creature explodes, and that Dan Aykroyd will eventually show up. (Aykroyd is not the goo creature.) What we don't get are jokes or suspense. This is supposed to be the end of the world, but the characters and story treat it like an infestation of crabgrass. We don't even get the creatures, since they're on camera about as often as Harry Lime. For every minute of monsters we get 10 minutes of pointless dialogue, women's volleyball games, white guy/black guy jokes and, when things really get slow, poo-poo riffs. Needless to say, there's not one but two rectal probes. Boy, I don't know what's harder to believe—that this movie got released or that Aykroyd nailed Donna Dixon.
Diagnosis: It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel nothing.
Prescription: Asked how he picked movies, Will Smith said that he looked at the top-grossing movies of all time and noticed that most of them featured creatures. Folks love the creatures. Folks love the creatures set against funny people saying and doing funny things. This formula is about as fresh as Abbott and Costello, but it works—when we get to see the creatures. Bring them aboveground. Let them do stuff; let their actions have consequences that create tension, suspense and situations ripe for punch lines. In that atmosphere, your heroes' actions—and wisecracks—will show them to be cool and funny under fire rather than contrived and annoying. (Robin Williams is not in this movie.)