Spacey fruit loops

With a heavy heart, Starman leaves the Spacey vessel after nearly 20 years of successful hiding.

With a heavy heart, Starman leaves the Spacey vessel after nearly 20 years of successful hiding.

Rated 1.0

Some will remember K-PAX for its quirky Kevin Spacey performance. Others will remember it for its feeble attempt at a combination of sci-fi coolness and feel-good sentimentality. Me? I’ll remember it for the unforgivable sights and sounds of Spacey eating various fruits with his mouth open.

Talk about gross. Spacey chomps bananas with the skin still on them, mauls apples and shlorps strawberries in stomach-churning, mouth-open displays of fruity gore. Director Iain Softley mercifully spares us the sight of Spacey going at his plate full of fruit salad at a picnic, although I’m sure it will be included in all its mushy, multicolored glory on the DVD.

Why the hell did the makers of this film think we needed to see this? I can handle all sorts of gore, mayhem, explosions, close-ups of Kathleen Turner … I can’t take the sight of masticated banana in Spacey’s puss. Averting your eyes may protect you from the visuals, but it doesn’t block out the slurping sounds.

Granted, this a petty gripe on my behalf. Let it stand as an indicator of what little impact this standard, touchy-feely, watch-me-act mishmash of about 20 other movies had on me. Part Fisher King, another part Starman, too much One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and a hefty share of Awakenings make this one feel more unoriginal than that shot-by-shot Gus Van Sant Psycho remake.

After getting picked up for suspicious behavior, a fellow going by the name of Prot (Spacey) earns a spot in a mental institution for claiming to be an alien from the planet K-PAX. He says he traveled to our planet on light beams and is many centuries old. He also claims to understand Dog Speak. Prot puts forth some convincing arguments for his claim, including knowledge of the universe that startles advanced scientists.

Dr. Powell (Jeff Bridges) is determined to prove Prot is a hoax, because that’s basically his party-pooping role in the film. He sets out on an obsessive investigation to discover Prot’s true identity, annoying the wife (Mary McCormack), neglecting the children and working ’round the clock. His dedication to the job is perhaps the film’s most farfetched fantasy touch.

Another subplot has Prot’s fellow ward patients getting all inspired, hospital film style, by his potential alien heritage and curing themselves and one another of their various mental ailments. They vie for a chance to return to K-PAX with Prot, staging an essay competition and, in one case, strangling each other. Prot is basically Jack Nicholson’s Cuckoo’s Nest persona, minus the charisma, general appeal and bitching eyebrows.

In the film’s most excruciating passage, Powell pulls info out of Prot with hypnosis, which results in major Spacey showboating (he gets to do a little child’s voice and have numerous breakdowns). After last year’s Pay it Forward, this film has Spacey participating in another movie that preaches more than it entertains, delivering its “Humans Heal Yourselves” message with all the subtlety of a hiking boot to the kidneys.

What happened to the edgy, American Beauty Kevin Spacey? The Usual Suspects Kevin Spacey? He’s been replaced by new-agey, sucky movie Spacey. This Kevin Spacey is evil and has no consideration for your sense of intellect and emotional balance. He wants you to cry, hug your neighbor and drink exotic teas.

Bring back the cool, subversive Spacey! He’s lost somewhere in a parallel universe, drinking beers with cool, subversive Nicolas Cage. Come to think of it, cool, subversive Jeff Bridges has a seat at that bar.

Some may consider the film’s final solution to the “Is he an alien?” quandary a copout. I consider it just another reason to be annoyed with K-PAX, a sure contender for one of the worst films of the year.

And Mr. Spacey … please chew with your mouth closed!