Prot (Kevin Spacey), as he calls himself, is no ordinary guy. Whether it”s the smug grin constantly plastered on his face, or the way he devours a banana, peel and all (he loves fruit), he is one peculiar fellow. After claiming to come from “K-PAX,” his home planet, he finds himself under the care of Dr. Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges) at the Psychiatric Institute of Manhattan. If “K-PAX” can be summed up in one phrase, it would be “One Flew Over the Cuckoo”s Nest meets E.T.”
The plot is definitely interesting enough to capture viewers, yet several loose ends and a slow pick-up leave something to be desired. Props to Kevin Spacey, however, for he does an excellent job portraying a charming, witty pseudo-human. When Prot is admitted to the hospital, Mark takes an immediate intrigue to the man who declares he is simply visiting Earth. Intending to find out who he “really” is, Mark probes his surprisingly vast amount of knowledge about the universe and the solar system, with the help of his astrophysicist friend.
The script (written by Charles Leavitt and adapted from the novel by Gene Brewer) surprises us, however, with curious bits of information resulting from the several “hypnotic sessions” Powell uses on Prot. And what Mark discovers changes both the lunatic stereotype he applied to Prot, and also viewers” increasing yearning to know what this man is all about. After careful research, Mark links Prot to a murder that occurred five years ago in a small rural town in New Mexico. A man named Robert Porter attempted suicide after finding his wife and child murdered at his home. Through identification records, this man could only be Prot.
It is difficult to identify what energy it is that keeps one attentive throughout the entire film, for the middle portion seems to drag and it brushes the side of dullness. Perhaps it is because one cannot grasp who Prot is, in a more spiritual sense, and how he touches the human condition through his insight and the way he helps several of the patients at the Institute. Howie (David Patrick Kelly), for example, is told to carry out three tasks, the first of which to watch for the “bluebird of happiness.” The following day while intently looking out the window, a blue jay appears, which sends the room of patients into a joyful frenzy.
While first thinking that the film will be about the possibility of light travel and another planet”s creatures, one sees that it becomes something completely different, yet just as intriguinga contemplation of human pain and perhaps even a miracle. In this sense, the film takes on an uneasy task, and it challenges one”s conception of geez, not really sure what.
And that”s the main problem with “K-PAX.” It answers no questions, which is somewhat boggling one walks out of the theater not quite knowing what to believe. I am not so sure that that is the intended effect many elements in the film seem underdeveloped, perhaps because it simply tries to incorporate too much. One is not sure if Prot is a hero, a deeply emotionally scarred human being, or really an entity from another planet. Perhaps answering this question would change the premise of the entire film, but as it is, “K-PAX” leaves one somewhat disconcerted. Spacey is your saving grace however, and he definitely gives you your money”s worth.