dir. Ivan Reitman
Opens Fri June 15 at various theaters.

Ivan Reitman has always known the intelligence of unassuming stupidity. His films--Ghostbusters and Stripes the best among them--radiate a warm stupidity that effectively melts down whatever resolve one might bring into the theater, like vinegar softening eggshells. Reitman's stupidity might almost be termed elegant--certainly, the towering Sta-Puft marshmallow man is as elegant a vision of stupidity as Hollywood produced in the '80s.

In Evolution, Reitman reworks the story of Ghostbusters around two small-town professors, Dr. Ira Kane (David Duchovny, fiercely inscrutable as always) and Harry Block (Orlando Jones), who are hot on the trail of an alien infestation. The plot, of course, is entirely superfluous--a day in the life of the average two-by-four contains more true drama--but to his credit, Reitman is stupid enough to use plot only as a structural mechanism, allowing his film to live in the moment with a goofy dedication that verges on the downright poetic. A throwaway shot of a car being blown up becomes a mini opera in its own right, while a shot of Duchovny and love interest Julianne Moore (redeeming herself after the atrocity of Hannibal) against the mesas of Monument Valley is allowed every ridiculous ounce of its geographically impossible glory.

But best of all, Evolution, set in the Arizona strip mall of Glen Canyon, revels in the erratic, mundane gallantry of small-town America. One scene, in which Duchovny bumps into his ex-wife out on a date with the town cop, says volumes about the benign horror of small-town social circles without sacrificing hilarity. Likewise, supporting characters--especially Dan Aykroyd's Governor Lewis and Seann William Scott's pool boy, Wayne--are more sympathetic than the average Hollywood grotesques, while Orlando Jones manages to parody himself only slightly--no small feat for an actor increasingly (and unfairly) relegated to thankless Hollywood go-to-Negro* funnyman roles (see Say It Isn't So).

*As coined by Charles Mudede, the term "go-to-Negro" refers to a black man to whom white people can "go" anytime they need to fill a quota.