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K-PAX (PG-13)
Universal Pictures
Official Site
Director: Iain Softley
Producer: Robert F. Colesberry
Written by: Charles Leavitt (screenplay), Gene Brewer (novel)
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Mary McCormack, Alfre Woodard, Ajay Naidu

Rating: out of 5

K-PAX is CONTACT meets HAPPY ACCIDENTS, with a better ending, better jokes, and (best of all) Kevin Spacey. Similar to HAPPY ACCIDENTS, K-PAX centers around the confusion caused by the origins of the main character, prot (Spacey), a could-be alien who looks human and says he is from the planet K-PAX, which is far, far away. Prot ends up in a psychiatric hospital–claiming to be an alien will get you there, remember–where Dr. Mark Powell (Bridges) is assigned as his psychiatrist and tries to figure out prot’s true identity and origin.

Prot is highly intelligent, unfazed by the mental ward and its eccentric patients, and he has a damn good sense of humor—better than that of most humans—which is enough to convince me of his other-worldly origins. He seems to screw up constantly but remains a lovable, huggable human and/or alien. I can’t say as much for Mark-o (as prot calls him), whom Bridges portrays almost too easily as a wishy-washy, stereotypically never-at-home, self-absorbed shrink who could use some help himself. The supporting cast—mostly patients of the hypochondriac or obsessive-compulsive sort—add some much-needed levity to the film to offset the too-heavy, emotional scenes.

Understandably, prot’s fellow patients are the only true believers in the existence of K-PAX, though it appears that Mark sometimes believes him. A series of mishaps (mass hysteria, unexplained events) leaves everyone else wondering whether prot is telling the truth about his home planet, and the story unravels from there. A nifty plot twist will leave you wondering until the end where prot really comes from. Of course, there is the requisite moral to this story. It’s an important one—as morals tend to be—and fortunately it lacks the cheesiness factor found in most moralistic movies (say, PAY IT FORWARD, for example).

Spacey’s acting in K-PAX reminds me of what a great talent he is, and his character is similar to the caustically aware characters Spacey normally portrays. This time I was reminded of his role as Lester Burnham in AMERICAN BEAUTY, sans the morbidity that becomes, and later ends, Lester’s life. Instead, K-PAX evokes every possible feeling—from joy to desire—and then provides an ending that is both thought provoking and satisfying.

—Sarah Andrews

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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