Universal Pictures | Release Date: October 26, 2001
7.1
USER SCORE
Generally favorable reviews based on 115 Ratings
USER RATING DISTRIBUTION
Positive:
83
Mixed:
20
Negative:
12
WATCH NOW
Stream On
Stream On
Review this movie
VOTE NOW
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Check box if your review contains spoilers 0 characteres (5000 max)
4
MovieMasterEddyApr 3, 2016
In "K-Pax," Kevin Spacey plays a character — either a profoundly disturbed mental patient or a being from a distant galaxy — who regards the strivings of ordinary earth folk with an amused detachment that combines smug superiority and gentleIn "K-Pax," Kevin Spacey plays a character — either a profoundly disturbed mental patient or a being from a distant galaxy — who regards the strivings of ordinary earth folk with an amused detachment that combines smug superiority and gentle pity. So what else, you may well ask, is new? Mr. Spacey's gift for irony, his attraction to roles that hide emotional distress behind a cloak of knowing composure, is starting to look like a vice.

Here, as in last year's vile "Pay It Forward," he lends his keen intelligence to a dubious therapeutic cause. "K-Pax" is a draggy, earnest exercise in pseudo-spiritual uplift, recycling romantic hokum about extraterrestrial life and mental illness with wide-eyed sincerity.

Mr. Spacey, his eyes obscured by black sunglasses, materializes in the middle of Grand Central Terminal one morning. You know that he is no ordinary commuter because of the New Age music that heralds his arrival and because a panhandler intuits something special about him. "Brother came from nowhere, you know what I'm saying?" he tells the police officer who arrives to take the stranger to the bughouse.

Once there, he explains to his doctor that he is a visitor from the planet K-Pax named Prot (rhymes with "emote") and that he traveled to earth on a beam of light. Although he could presumably leave the hospital at will (and does vanish for a few days on a tour of the Arctic), Prot elects to stay, and he promptly sets about curing the other patients. When Dr. Powell (Jeff Bridges) objects, Prot muses on the "curious human distinction" between doctor and patient and wonders why Powell hasn't cured his unhappy charges yet. In the movies, of course, the patients always cure each other. If Jack Nicholson and Winona Ryder can do it, why can't Mr. Spacey?

As Prot goes about dispensing his good works, the movie's central conundrum begins to emerge. Dr. Powell's skepticism is rattled by his patient's peculiar metabolism and a grasp of celestial mechanics that astounds a panel of leading astrophysicists, who assemble in the Rose Center planetarium for an impromptu seminar. Meanwhile, the physician clearly needs to heal himself. Powell is a classic movie workaholic, neglecting his wife and daughters and estranged from his grown son.

Needless to say, it takes a brother from a planet where family ties don't exist, a superior being with deep insights into the benighted state of humanity, to teach the good doctor some important lessons. Along the way, we pause for some excruciatingly predictable dialogue:

"You're too close to this patient," says Powell's supervisor (Alfre Woodard). "Why choose this one to save?"

"Maybe because I feel that he chose me," the doctor replies.

The K-Paxian civilization has evolved far beyond our own, so what do these beings have to teach us? "Get it right this time. This time is all you have." Can they send us some screenwriters, or are the ones we have aliens in human form?

Of course, there is also the possibility that Prot is just a severely deluded, terribly traumatized earthling, and the one thing "K-Pax" does get right is its handling of this ambiguity. Though the individual scenes are atrociously written — and dragged out so that every possible emotional cliché can be ticked off the checklist — the story is cleverly structured and allows us to entertain two contradictory possibilities without seeming egregiously illogical.

There are some lapses, though. Prot finds the expression "take a seat" incomprehensible and the New Jersey city of Hoboken difficult to pronounce, yet he seems well acquainted with American cinema. "Don't worry, doctor," he says to Powell, "I won't jump out of your chest."

But his divided identity does allow Mr. Spacey to jump out of his skin, to break through his sly reserve in a moment of wailing, screaming anguish tailor-made for the video screens on Oscar night. Mr. Bridges looks on with evident concern, and it's hard to watch these two actors plow through the nonsense of "K- Pax" without feeling that a terrific opportunity has been squandered. Mr. Spacey uses his quick verbal intelligence and his easy smirk to deflect emotion and then, in unexpected and often untrustworthy ways, to reveal it. Mr. Bridges's cunning works in the opposite direction. His plain-spoken naturalism is often an especially effective form of guile. If Mr. Spacey's characters are often more sincere than they seem, those of Mr. Bridges are smarter than they let on.

Unfortunately, the premise of "K- Pax" is so tired, and the direction so plodding and uninflected, that the actors rarely connect with each other. Iain Softley, the director, whose adaptation of "The Wings of the Dove" shook loose some of the novel's mannerisms and excavated its gothic psychosexual subtext, almost succeeds in giving some resonance to Charles Leavitt's relentlessly shallow script (from a novel by Gene Brewer).
Expand
0 of 0 users found this helpful00
All this user's reviews
6
ZeTomesOct 16, 2012
It's not a masterpiece, but its lighted subtle criticism over our nowadays frantic society based on consumption and production, giving pause and importance to humanitarianism by rolling the family as the Aristotelian representation of TheIt's not a masterpiece, but its lighted subtle criticism over our nowadays frantic society based on consumption and production, giving pause and importance to humanitarianism by rolling the family as the Aristotelian representation of The nuclear cell of A social structure, makes worth the time spent watching it. If, the art of films represents the inner reflection of a positive potential changing of our own lives and attitude towards it: to live in community highlighting the paradigm person versus object. If not, just a neo-formula of spicing movies with philosophical powder as the new wave of profiting from the ideological needs of the audience like pills to evade from the modern urban depression reflecting a society hunger of rational values. Expand
1 of 1 users found this helpful10
All this user's reviews
4
CritiqueGirlMar 4, 2011
I watched this whole movie, right up to the end. I was pretty sure I knew what it would be but it just dragged on so long I had to change the channel. Who cared at that point.
1 of 1 users found this helpful10
All this user's reviews
5
ryancarroll88Aug 27, 2010
A very well-thought out movie that unfortunately offers very little kick. Still, the saving grace here is Kevin Spacey, who as always churns out a performance worth remembering.
1 of 2 users found this helpful11
All this user's reviews
6
PatC.Jan 12, 2004
Earth to K-PAX: Thanks for transmitting program. Skip in signal - received wrong ending. Please send correct one - several of us are confused and scared.
0 of 0 users found this helpful
6
MichaelNov 10, 2001
Just saw this movie. Sure was sappy in parts. I do enjoy Spacey quite a bit, but here he seemed to be relishing too much his usual smugness. The good is how the story toys with the central issue of whether Prot is human. The bad I would have Just saw this movie. Sure was sappy in parts. I do enjoy Spacey quite a bit, but here he seemed to be relishing too much his usual smugness. The good is how the story toys with the central issue of whether Prot is human. The bad I would have to assume is the director's fault. Much too obvious for my taste. Not unhappy to have seen it, but could have waited for video, for sure. Expand
0 of 0 users found this helpful
5
JesseS.Oct 31, 2001
What a disastrous ending!
0 of 0 users found this helpful