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K-Pax

Starring Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges
Screenplay by Charles Leavitt
Based on the novel by Gene Brewer
Directed by Iain Softley
website: www.k-pax.com

IN SHORT: Almost terrific. [Rated PG-13 for a sequence of violent images, and brief language and sensuality. 130 minutes]

As far as we're concerned, any dramatic movie in which some of the principal characters claim to be from a different planet automatically falls into the realm of science fiction. That being our definition, one of the hardest things to do on the big screen is to mix science fiction with realistic drama. The elements of science fiction (or science fantasy) are two: that whatever the drama may be, it may be believable, and whatever fantastical event or technology occurs in the story be rooted in some sort of reality A hundred years ago, manned flight was impossible but that didn't stop anyone from dreaming about it. A hundred and fifty years from now, warp drive will be possible.

Sometimes, though, reality gets in the way of truly enjoying a film which would, by any checklist defining the qualities of a well made film, rate highly. On the big screen in front of us is K-Pax, in which a top notch psychiatrist goes head to head with a homeless person, first seen wandering in New York's Grand Central Station. Confined to the New York Psychiatric Institute for observation, "Prot" (Kevin Spacey) claims to be a 337 years old visitor from the planet K-Pax. K-Pax has two suns that provide very little light and seven moons, all of which are of the color purple. It's a terrific story. One which Dr. Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges) puts little stock in. Prot, on the other hand, believes it one hundred percent, wearing sunglasses at (almost) all times to protect his sensitive eyes from the brilliance of our sunlight. His manners are equally unique. A vegetarian, Prothas no idea as to how to eat some of the fruits and vegetables he so enjoys and his calm manner seems to bring about a cure in some of the patients with whom he shares the ward. When "Prot" is asked specific questions about space, the universe, and all things extraterrestrial, not only does he answer the questions perfectly, he provides information that isn't in the public domain.

All in all, Prot seems to be an all around nice guy, who expects to return to K-Pax at 5:51 a.m. ET, on July 27.

The specifics of his return send up red flags for the doctor. So, what is our scientist to do when experience tells him that "Prot" is a ticking mental time bomb but his own investigations point to the possibility that this alleged starman may be as alien as claimed? He works his butt off to crack the mystery before time runs out. Combine an intriguing premise with two crackerjack performances by the aforementioned stars and you've got two-thirds of a truly great movie.

Think of it from the actor's point of view. Bridges plays a doctor in a setting where it's a given that everybody is a nut case. To allow (himself) to believe that one of his patients may actually be the alien he claims to be and to make those of us in the audience believe that he believes... or Spacey's "alien," who may be an offworlder or might just be a very convincing nut case. We believed him, too. Our only problem with K-Pax is that the story of the film tries to have it both ways. We won't spill the impressive logic by which it manages the feat. We'll only say that it left us cold.

It's a shame because everything else about the film works beautifully, from day to day problems in Dr. Powell's marriage to the lovely Rachel (Mary McCormack) to the fine performances by the supporting cast of "doctors" (including Alfre Woodard) and patients (primarily Peter Gerety as "Sal," who follows Prot's three short steps to a long term cure). Sometimes a fantastical (sic) story needs a wee bit of fantasy to keep us happy. It's either that or a whopper of a tragic ending to blast us sober. K-Pax can't decide which side of that line to toe, either.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to K-Pax, he would have paid . . .

$4.00

Dateflick level because, except for the misstep of an ending, K-Pax would be an OK date. If the ending causes you no problems -- we don't think we're far off base. K-Pax didn't work for our date, either -- then it's probably a great date.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.