ninth symphony films - movie reviews

K-PAX (2001)

DIRECTOR  -  iain softly

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  120 minutes

RELEASED  -  26 october 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  universal pictures


ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $48,000,000
k-pax - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from k-pax at

buy the dvd from k-pax at

k-pax tells the story of prot, a mysterious patient at a mental hospital who claims to be from a distant planet called k-pax.

the yearbook picture of robert porter is the actual picture of kevin spacey that appears in the 1977 chatsworth high school yearbook.


picture from k-pax

picture from k-pax

picture from k-pax


one out of four possible stars

Bloated with its own self-importance, K-Pax seeks to tell the viewer that their current way of seeing the world is outdated. But this film is really just a forum for Kevin Spacey to act like Kevin Spacey. The tag-line for this film is "change the way you look at the world." And at first glance, the story line for this film presents an intriguing idea with some good possibilities. but this opportunity really never has the chance to become the main idea of the film, considering that most of the time the camera is trained on Spacey, who spends his time uttering what might be some witty comment but what really doesn't come off as being that smart.

Perhaps the root of this problem lies with the fact that this film promises a lot and doesn't deliver. The drama in this film is too sappy to be anything more than something reminiscent of a featured novel from Oprah's book club. The people in this story all have depressing problems and by the end of the film, they're not really solved. Nothing in the film comes to a resolution. Even the pseudo-happy ending for Jeff Bridges's character (he plays the doctor treating Kevin Spacey) doesn't show much more depth than the shallow end of the kiddie pool.

Like I said before, this film took a potentially inspiring story, aka It's A Wonderful Life, and instead created a film that reminded me of The Deep End of the Ocean. Wait, wasn't that an Oprah book? And unfortunately, the characters in K-Pax did not affect me on an emotional level. I didn't even feel sorry for most of the people locked up in the mental institution. Their problems seemed insignificant in comparison to the number of shots including faraway glances from Kevin Spacey. There was too much what I would term "posturing" in this film for it to have any effect on me other than wondering why I actually paid for the evening show.

It seemed also as if the filmmakers were trying to preach to me. Just like Artificial Intelligence. It seemed as though the people making this film wanted to slip some educational opinions in with the wonder and hope that the audience didn't catch on to the trick. But they failed on both counts. The lesson isn't something I need to learn, because i already know it. And the wonder in this film is far from wonderful. For all the celestial and supernatural elements that were supposed to wow my brain throughout this film, I found that the camera was too often trained on kevin spacey's face.

He has several speeches throughout the film where the camera hangs at an odd angle or where there's an errant beam of light hitting his face. The cinematographer was just trying to cover up the fact that this film dwells way too long on Kevin Spacey. And many times, the supporting cast, many of whom were the most interesting characters in the film, were neglected. After his success in American Beauty, it seems as though Spacey has turned into a screen hog. Though it's unclear whether this abundance of Spacey-shots was the decision of the director and editor, or was a demand by Spacey himself.

Whatever the reason, i feel that the story sacrificed some of its human element in order to bring the audience something special from spacey. And I'm not being ironic here, the story is about an alien, but I don't think this film was really supposed to be about the alien anyhow. I believe it was supposed to be more about the human interactions, and the editor just had a field day with the story. When watching this film, I wanted to know about the people in the film, not learn all about Kevin Spacey's face. And all I saw was Kevin acting like an alien: devoid of much feeling or human emotional qualities.

But when people other than Kevin Spacey were on the screen and doing their acting thing, i enjoyed the melodrama. And really, this movie is nothing if not a melodrama. intense feelings had by everyone except for kevin spacey. of course, one might consider this a failed melodrama since the main character doesn't show any emotion save for a few moments while under hypnosis. But back to those minor characters. I can't say I remember the character's name (all the characters in the mental institution only had first names), but there was a man who played an obsessive compulsive person really gave me a performance to enjoy when he was on the screen.

He is one of the mental patients who have the most interaction with Spacey and his performance was much more believable than Spacey's. Allowing for the fact that spacey is playing an alien, I still must say that his performance was lacking. His acting in American Beauty was nothing less than stirring, but that's because I cared about his character. Though if Kevin is not to be blamed for this inadequacy, I don't think I could blame Jeff Bridges either. His performance was solid, if only appropriate. I would have to fault the story, if anything. This film was originally a book and unfortunately, novels do not always translate well into film form.

There are several exceptions to the rule, but this picture is not one of them. Perhaps the story was much more vivid on paper, but from what I've seen in the film, the performances from the lead characters did not live up to what was promised in the trailers. But that is what trailers are for, yes? To trick you into the movie theater, make you believe you're going to see something wonderful. But what you end up with is a melodrama where the actors' salaries were too high and their level of enthusiasm in the film was too low.

Of course, I doubt that the supporting actors were paid suitable money for their roles. So, in conclusion, I'd like to say that the star in this film goes not to Kevin Spacey's overrated performance, but to the supporting cast who allow this picture not to be a complete lemon. And no, I did not change the way I look at the world.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

content 2000 - - ninth symphony films - photographs columbia pictures 2001
home | archive | ratings | links | photographs | about | contact