A man calling himself Prot (Kevin Spacey) is detained by police at Grand Central Station. He says he’s a visitor from the planet K-Pax, and is promptly sent to psychiatrist Dr Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges). Powell only wants to help Prot with his particular psychosis, but what he gradually discovers is a curious being who has positive effects on the lives of his fellow mental patients. When Prot helps solve some of Powell’s own family issues, the good doctor begins to wonder if Prot is inventing an alternate universe for himself, or if he really is an alien.
Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
What’s happened to Kevin Spacey? He worked steadily in Hollywood until reaching his zenith in the late-90s with electrifying roles in Glengary Glenross, The Usual Suspects, Se7en and American Beauty, winning two Oscars along the way. The new millennium, however, has seen Spacey travel to another celluloid universe altogether, starring in the sight-unseen Ordinary Decent Criminal, the bland adaptation of Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, and now the syrupy sentimental K-Pax. For a while there, Spacey’s name was reason to see anything, but his last few efforts have seem him (ironically) living up to his surname by playing spaced-out middle-aged white males who ponder their place in the universe.
K-Pax thus seems to be the culmination of Spacey’s unfortunate ennui, and even the valiant efforts of earthy actor Jeff Bridges can’t lift K-Pax above anything other than mildly enjoyable, life-affirming entertainment. It wraps a familiar “Is he or isn’t he an alien?” mystery around a very human tale of salvation. It’s a little like Starman meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. You know – strange outsider suffers to remind mankind of the beauty of being human. E.T. and Cocoon did much the same.
The DVD comes with a handful stream-lined extras that compliment the film without going overboard. The picture is crisp and clear but comes only in 5.1 sound. There’s a slide-show of on-set black and white photography taken by Jeff Bridges, an amateur photographer himself who takes snaps on every film he makes. There’s an Alternative Ending that proves to be over-sentimentalised, drawn out, and thankfully left on the cutting room floor. The Spotlight on Location featurette is surprisingly informative, namely because Spacey, Bridges and director Softley really believe they’re on a winner, and that Spacey originally declined another part in the movie (Bridges’ part?) until being offered the role of Prot.
The Storyboard feature shows Softley’s vision through cartoonish doodlings of Spacey in those black shades. Softley’s feature commentary, as you may guess, is rather indulgent and self-congratulatory. He’s nevertheless made a contemplative film that keeps you guessing about Prot’s real identity until the very end.
But K-Pax is more about the mysteries and connections between inner and outer space. It’s a sentimental film, but it’s nice to watch two fine actors sink into decent roles. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride into spaced-out Spacey-ville. The weather’s fine.
Published February 27, 2003
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K-PAX: DVD (M)
(US) - 2002
CAST: Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Alfre Woodard, Mary McCormack, Saul Williams, David Patrick Kelly
DIRECTOR: Ian Softley
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
PRESENTATION: 2:35:1 widescreen; Dolby 5.1
SPECIAL FEATURES: The Making of K-Pax: Pictures by Jeff Bridges; Alternative Ending, Spotlight on Location; Feature Commentary with Director Iain Softley; Storyboard to Final Feature Comparison
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE
DVD RELEASE: January 29, 2003 (retail)