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Film Review - K-PAX
How could a movie that looked so good, go so wrong?
K-PAX is an interesting premise film starring Kevin Spacey as Prot, and man who claims to be from the planet K-PAX. Prot is kind and un-judging. But claiming he's from another planet gets him tossed into the looney bin.
Jeff Bridges plays Dr. Mark Powell, a psychiatrist who works Prot's case, trying to discover who he really is. Powell might be the only stereotype. The shrink with the poor family relations. he is distant from his wife and children, and doesn't speak to his son from his previous marriage.
While being treated, Prot describes details of the K-PAX star system that only a few scientists in the world would know. He wows them. This is contrived. The idea that only a few people could know this, doesn't make sense. This is a trick to make us think Prot really is from K-PAX.
We are given more evidence when Prot leaves the hospital to go see Greenland. No one can explain how he left, and later returned. Again, this is a trick to convince us of his alien credentials.
The last half hour of the film is where things go awry. Powell regresses Prot through hypnosis to a trauma. And begins to learn who he thinks Prot really is. That by itself would be fine, except that we then have to go to Arizona to live the trauma ourselves. I just don't buy that this Doctor is going to buy his own ticket across the country to see a patient's old house.
The trip does make us begin to doubt Prot's alienness. This last thirty minutes is much darker than the rest of the film. And it slows to about one quarter the pace of the previous footage. In fact this pace is painful to watch.
Throughout the film, Prot has announced the day that he will be returning to K-PAX. He can take one person with him. The other inmates write essays explaining why they should go. At the exact moment he predicted, Prot's room is flooded with light. TV cameras in the room malfunction. The woman chosen to travel with him disappears. And in Prot's room a man is found in the fetal position under the bed. It's the same man, but Prot is certainly not in that body anymore.
Now the audience has a choice to make. Was Prot from K-PAX, or was he just a very traumatized man living a fantasy? No matter what answer you choose, you can not be right. Either answer has definitive evidence that eliminates the choice from being right. Ultimately, this is the down fall of the film. Don't these guys know we want a real ending?
Directed by Iain Softley
Released in 2001
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Reviewed by Mongo