K-PAX

2 bone dog

PG13
Stars:  Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey
Director:    Iain Softley
Writer:    Charles Leavitt from the Gene Brewer novel

I am somehow reminded of that Christmas Card with the quaint Santa on it that says, simply “Believe”, because the message that comes across loud and clear in K-PAX is that people are so afraid to believe and trust and that they really shouldn’t be. The other messages are that we have great produce and families are for loving and sharing. Roll that up and you get a highly pleasant, soupy, occasionally loopy flick about a guy who may or not be an extraterrestrial. And if he isn’t a real alien, he must automatically be schizophrenic. I prefer the former.

Jeff Bridges does a credible job as Mark Powell, a caring doctor at a New York Psychiatric Institute who is given the daunting task of sorting out Kevin Spacey’s alien-convicted character, a brainy but strangely assured guy named Prot (rhymes with coat). Prot claims to be from the planet K-PAX. The problem, as Powell sees it, is that Prot is the most believable delusional client he’s ever seen, yet, Powell is convinced that there’s a trauma buried somewhere deep in Prot’s psyche and he aims to find it.

Prot’s presence at the facility where he takes up forced residence, stirs the gaggle of other delusional inmates in ways that begin to trouble the good doctor. We see the usual types of screen loonies and Prot seems content to sit, stare and chat among them while attempting to “heal” them with his special kind of comfort and otherworldliness. When Prot declares that he will be returning home to K-PAX on July 27, both inmates and Powell become edgy. All the inmates want to go with him; Powell is convinced he’s only got that long to find the answer to Prot’s delusion.

At the same time, Powell has his own demons to face. He has an estranged teenage son from a first marriage and his workaholic ways are quietly threatening his marriage to Rachel (Mary McCormack) and family life with his two young daughters. Discourse with Prot leads Powell to do some heavy soul searching.

Lotta says: Bridges and Spacey believe with a capital B in their roles and take them seriously enough to make us believe too. Left with an ambiguous ending, it is up to us to decide what we do, in fact, believe in. The biggest failing for me was with the hypnosis scene which took me right out of the movie because of its ludicrous ‘1-2-3, you’re out like a light’ nature, and it resulted in keeping me out of it till the final two scenes. Up to that point I really liked  K-PAX and liked it again in those final moments. But a good chunk was ruined and it just so happened to include Kevin Spacey’s big “moments”, a performance that came across as just that: a performance. Aside from that, Spacey’s work is very good with just the right light touches in his alien-inspired behavior. Bridges presents a solid, well-acted performance throughout.

Reviewed 10/26/01