Comfortable and Furious


“You humans and the clichéd slop you pass off as drama.” That’s the sort of thing “Prot” keeps saying in K-PAX. “You, humans with you’re Jesus and you’re this and you’re that.” He sounds more like Perot. He has all sorts of trite assessments of humans too, like that we might blow ourselves up at any time and that “eye for an eye” is a bankrupt concept of justice. Yeah, thanks for the tip. Maybe we should also practice greater tolerance and take better care of the environment.

That’s the kind of film this is. Dr. Powell works very hard and cares deeply about his patients, but doesn’t pay enough attention to his family. That is, until Prot shows him the error oh his ways. The mental patients are like an eclectic bunch of sad, innocent children. And they can see things the sane can’t see. Prot can talk to dogs, and although he sees humans as primitive, he is touched by the emotional connections they have to one another.

In other words, this film is built primarily from sentimentality and clichéd©, and it gets pretty boring pretty fast. If you like that sort of thing, well knock yourself out with this one. Please. But I don’t get anything out of it. These characters and events seem designed to provoke a reaction, rather than according to their own logic. But that gives everything an artificial feel, which has the consequence of undermining any reaction.

I liked some things about this film. Most importantly, I liked the way the question of Prot’s true identity was handled. (spoiler) At the end of the film it seems very unlikely that he is an alien, and very unlikely that he is not an alien, except for the fact that one or the other must be true. If he’s not an alien, Prot is a seemingly impossible genius in both physics and psychiatry and a pet psychic to boot. There are also some impressive coincidences to explain. If he is an alien–well, he’s an alien. And one who never gives an absolute demonstration of that fact, even though there is a far-fetched scenario according to which he might not be an alien. The film carries off this balancing act perfectly, and I would perk up when ever this question was being addressed.

If everything around the alien issue wasn’t so hackneyed, K-PAX might have been pretty good. If, for example, Prot said things that would alter one’s world view, like, that plants felt pain or that matter didn’t exist, you wouldn’t wonder if he was an alien just because you wondered if he was an alien. You’d wonder if he was an alien because you wondered if he was an alien which would mean that plants felt pain and matter didn’t exist. Instead of that, we found out what would happen if you crossed Phenomenon with Contact.

DVD Extras

The extras were adequate. There’s an alternate ending that presents the
same information in a different way, some deleted scenes and so on. I listened to
some of the commentary by Softley. It was decent. Listening to the commentary on a
film like this can be interesting in that, even though the film seems cookie cutter,
you realize that a lot of thought went into it. My guess is that too much of that input
came from marketing people and Kevin Spacey’s agent. Too bad.

    • Film overall: 3.5
    • Directing: 4
    • Acting: 5
    • Story:3
    • DVD Goodies: 6
    • Number of beers needed to completely enjoy this film: 8
    • Number of times I paused the movie to do something else: 1