Director: Iain Softley Cast: Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges


Prot (Kevin Spacey) may or may not be an alien. Or he may be insane. As the film progresses, we care less and less. On his arrival in New York Prot is locked up in a hospital for the mentally ill for being frank about his alien nature. So right at the beginning the film starts to creak: if the NYPD locked up every alien in New York, the streets would be empty.

Prot is aloof from human foibles and folly: he is full of alien wisdom. Alien wisdom goes like this: be nice to each other and eat lots of fruit. It is with an audible groan that we realize this is a film with a message. The message being that measured against the grand scheme of things our human squabbles and self-absorbtion are pretty trivial.

And the message is woven into the fabric of the film. Prot travels on beams of light: light equates to purity and knowledge – geddit? He lives in a mental hospital which is a microcosm of dysfunctional humanity. Prot comes from the planet K-PAX and in Latin pax means peace.

There is a problem with this kind of message. Telling people we should be nice to each other is a bit like telling an alcoholic he shouldn’t drink. The alcoholic knows he shouldn’t drink, what he needs is practical advice on giving up.

The analysis of human suffering is mostly cursory. Prot is closer to human pain than we expect but the revelation fails to enlighten. The message of the film, such as it is, is reduced to sentimentality. The only redeeming features are its good intentions and the engaging performances of Spacey and Jeff Bridges.

Review by Chris Page

e-mail Psilocybe P. Pook: