K-Pax (12)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner04/11/2002

Two out of five stars
Running time: 121 mins

A bit of a disappointment, given the talent involved – it looks good and has a decent premise, but both actors are on auto-pilot and the end result is over-long and very slow.

On paper, it must have looked great – a film starring both Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges, two of America’s best actors, working together for the first time and directed by a reliable director in Iain Softley (who made Backbeat and The Wings of a Dove). So why isn’t K-PAX as good as it should have been?

Perhaps because the script refuses to take any risks – it’s too afraid of becoming like Cocoon on one side and trying desperately not to be too derivative of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest on the other. At any rate, the film, while not awful, is still a definite disappointment, with both actors firmly on autopilot throughout.

A shame, really, because the premise is a pretty good one. Kevin Spacey plays ‘Prot’ (rhymes with ‘boat’), a patient in a psychiatric hospital who claims to be a benign visitor from the planet K-PAX – 1000 light-years from Earth. He wears sunglasses a majority of the time, eats bananas with the skins still on (“Your produce alone is worth the trip”), astonishes astro-physicists with his knowledge of planet alignment and claims to be able to travel ‘on beams of light’.

His psychiatrist (Jeff Bridges), however, is a tad more sceptical, as he gradually comes to believe that ‘Prot’ has created a protective shell for himself, in order to block out the memory of a terrible tragedy in his life. Meanwhile, Prot sets about livening up the ward (shades of Cuckoo’s Nest) by promising to take one of their number away with him on a particular date. Is he really an alien? Or is he really a nutter?

The main problem with the film is that it refuses to be drawn one way or the other, which makes for an ultimately frustrating and disappointing experience. You’d think, then, that the film would at least be worth watching for the performances, but both actors are obviously coasting.

At one point someone asks Prot how he’s feeling and he says “A little…spacey” – after that, it’s impossible to see Spacey’s performance as anything other than showing off. Having said that, he’s excellent in the film’s best scene, in which he ‘translates’ what Bridges’ family dog is saying to the children – but if you’ve seen the trailer, then you’ve already seen that scene.

To be fair, it’s not an awful film – for one thing it’s beautifully shot, courtesy of cinematographer John Mathieson. However, it is unforgivably dull in places where it should be lively and funny and it’s also slow-paced and a good twenty minutes too long.

In short, then, K-PAX is something of a disappointment – it’s watchable enough, but never particularly engaging and you may well find yourself wishing for your own intergalactic beam of light to whisk you away before the two hours are up.

Film Trailer

K-Pax (12)
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Content updated: 16/12/2017 07:04

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