Remember when Kevin Spacey was considered a good actor? It happened between 1995 and 1999. In 1995, both The Usual Suspects and Seven were released, and Spacey earned an Academy Award for his role as Roger Kint in The Usual Suspects. In 1999 he was again awarded an Academy Award for his role as Lester Burnham in American Beauty. That’s not to say that Spacey hasn’t had some minor triumphs before and since then, but those were really the golden days of Spacey. At this point, the shine has worn off. People don’t even care if he’s blowing guys in his trailer anymore. I think his fall from grace has to do with the fact that he has absolutely no range. His characters are always bemused and detached, watching the movie that’s going on around them as if they aren’t a major part of it. Splash some cold water on your face, Kevin Spacey, you’re a fucking movie star. Act like it.

K-PAX is, in some ways, a two-hour long calling card for Kevin Spacey. A calling card for if he wants to show people just how bad he can be at acting. The movie is about an extraterrestrial named Prot who gets arrested at Grand Central Station for wearing sunglasses and standing too close to a mugging victim. He ends up in the Psychiatric Institute of Manhattan (sure) under the expert treatment of Jeff Bridges. Jeff Bridges is convinced that Prot is a crazy person, but there are some aspects of his performance that are difficult to ignore. For example, Prot does not respond to anti-psychotic medication (Thorazine and Haldol), his eyes can detect infrared light (that’s a thing doctors are always testing eyes to find out if they can do), and he gives some astrophysicists calculations for where the planet K-PAX can be located and all the astro-physicists are like “Um, that is top secret astrophysicist stuff for the pros only.” Prot tells Jeff Bridges that being on Earth is awesome, but that he’s going to be leaving on July 26th at 5:10 in the morning, and Jeff Bridges decides that’s an anniversary of something bad that happened to Prot and that he’s got to make a psychotherapy breakthrough before Prot “leaves.” He puts Prot under hypnosis to “regress” him and Prot tells him about previous trips to Earth to visit his friend “Pete,” who he came to visit whenever Pete was scared. Later, Jeff Bridges goes to New Mexico where a guy who looks just like Prot disappeared after a man killed his wife and daughter. On July 26th at 5:10 AM, Prot disappears, kind of, leaving Kevin Spacey’s body in a catatonic state and Jeff Bridges reunites with his son because that’s how these things work, and we’re not supposed to know whether Prot was real or just a creation of Kevin Spacey’s sad mind.

Here’s just a taste of the old Spacey magic.

I should stop for a second to say that I don’t think this is the WMOAT. But it definitely might be the Worst Peformance of All Time. You can just see Kevin Spacey’s brain bursting with self-congratulatory shouts of “ACTING! I’M ACTING!” The worst. And it also wins an honorary mention as being a member of the Worst Genre of All Time, which is the Crazy/Mentally-Disabled Person Teaches the Jaded Cynic to Enjoy Life Again school of reductive redemption stories. Again: the worst. But as for the Worst Movie of All Time, it’s too soft. It’s a lazy jumble of dull clichés tied together by half-hearted writing and phoned in performances, except for Kevin Spacey, who really tried to make this one for the Horrible Record Books.

That being said, it is very very bad. For one, the twist ending in which we’re supposed to be left wondering whether or not Prot was an alien or just a disturbed man would be a perfectly decent O’Henry finale if the filmmaker (Iain Softley, who also brought us Hackers) hadn’t worked so hard to build up the case for him being an alien. Between the infrared vision and the secret astro-physicist information, not to mention the part where Prot can talk to dogs, and the part where he disappears from a well-guarded mental institution for a few days to “travel up North,” are never resolved. Which means they’re pretty convincing evidence that he’s totally an alien. Fair enough. I’m willing to accept that. So what’s the point of not just having him disappear altogether, but keeping up this charade of a mystery? If it’s a thin, barely worked out message that we’re surrounded by wonders that we can’t explain and should be open to miracles it would be just as valid with a spaceship at the end. In fact, the only point I can take from leaving him here as a comatose in a Carhart jacket is that we should always remain skeptical. That even when given ample evidence to the contrary, we should stubbornly refuse to believe what is right in front of us.

But perhaps the most egregious problem with this movie (Spacey excluded) is the nonsense pop psychology on which it constructs its entire dramatic arc. I’m totally willing to suspend my disbelief long enough to believe that Prot may actually be a stilted actor with fruit-triggered diarrhea from the planet K-PAX, but fuck you if you think I’m going to passively accept this hypnosis bullshit. Not only does this give Kevin Spacey an excuse to show off his estimable “talking in a little kid’s voice with his eyes closed and then later talking in a gentle southern twang voice with his eyes closed” skills, when I’d rather he didn’t have an excuse, but at one point, watching through a two-way mirror, Jeff Bridges’s lab assistant says, “Pulse is up to 140, respiration’s at 30, for God’s sake, Mark, bring him back.” No. Nope. The only worse example of this kind of lazy disrespect for the mental health profession was in Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams cured Matt Damon by hugging him. OH, and I almost forgot the rowdy band of lovable mental patients who rally around Prot and share their dreams of returning to the regular world. The fact of the matter is most mental patients, particularly those who have been permanently or extensively hospitalized, have very serious problems by which they might hurt themselves or others, and to depict them as goofy captives in a silly string prison is not only a tremendous stretch of the truth and a bizarre Disneyfication of PSYCHOSIS, it’s also just kind of rude.

That’s OK, K-PAX, no need to apologize. I will take your quiet sinking to the bottom of Whoops Ocean with two lead FAILS tied to your ankles as admission of your mistakes.

Next week: Hudson Hawk. As always, please leave your suggestions in the comments or in an email. And if you haven’t done so already, please consult the Official Rules.

Comments (32)
  1. AV Club  |   Posted on Aug 18th, 2008 +1

    Do Lost In Space… PLEASE, ITS SO BAD!

  2. You wouldn’t know a bad film if it raped your sister then cut off your penis.

  3. First Keanu Reeves, then Nicholas Cage, now Kevin Spacey… OOH! OOH! do Brad Pitt next! Most of these start out with “You know, this isn’t the WMOAT, but I do hate [insert famous actor with dubious acting skills]…”

    Get your criteria sorted out, man. It’s not too late!

  4. Bec  |   Posted on Aug 19th, 2008 +1

    True Story:
    KPAX is our local CBS affiliate and this movie made googling them a little bit difficult. I’m sure they curse Kevin Spacey on the regular.

  5. JMAC  |   Posted on Aug 19th, 2008 +1

    KPAX has a more sordid history than you know. It was literally STOLEN from an Argentinian film called Man Facing Southeast. As you can imagine, the original was better. The director, I believe, tried to sue … but KPAX didn’t make any money anyway, I imagine.

  6. Matthew  |   Posted on Aug 19th, 2008 +2

    Patch Adams, please

  7. indieguy322  |   Posted on Aug 19th, 2008 0

    I second Lost In Space, and also submit Man Of The Year. It is insanely bad, you have no idea. What was advertised as an unfunny comedy was actually an unthrilling techno-thriller.

  8. Matthew  |   Posted on Aug 19th, 2008 0

    Well, i havent seen the man of the year , but lost in space. But both cant be as bad as Robbin Williams healing cancer-ridden children by the magical power of laughter.

  9. Since I think it’s a travesty we’ve only had one Oscar nominated film in the lineup, may I nominate “In the Bedroom”? That movie made me want to dig my own eyes out with spoons.

  10. Tony  |   Posted on Aug 19th, 2008 0

    Don’t go ragging on Hudson Hawk. It’s great.

  11. ThisGuy  |   Posted on Aug 19th, 2008 -2

    “Zorro, The Gay Blade”, but only after Tank Girl.

  12. Ricky   |   Posted on Aug 19th, 2008 -2

    Hard Candy with Ellen Page and that guy that’s in Lakeview Terrace. Maybe, you should do Lakeview Terrace as well when it comes out.

  13. Steve Sanders  |   Posted on Aug 19th, 2008 0

    Masters of the Universe!~

    So bad, so good. You’ll love it.

  14. Mandy  |   Posted on Aug 20th, 2008 0

    I’m on the “Man of the Year” bandwagon. I think I got through about 15 min of that movie. Worst 15 min of my life.

  15. shouldn’t kpax get some kind of bonus points for having Saul Williams in it?

  16. Henry  |   Posted on Aug 22nd, 2008 0

    I recommend also: “League of the extraordiniary Gentlemen”

  17. Premonition starring Sandra Bullock. Although that may qualify for Most Boring Movie of All Time also.

  18. BloodGain  |   Posted on Aug 25th, 2008 +2

    Morgan Freeman + bad adaptation of a weak Stephen King plot = Dreamcatcher

    It also has Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, and several other “kinda famous” people in it. Absolutely terrible, and not on purpose.

    • I second Dreamcatcher. It’s kind of like every Steven King cliche all in one movie. Seriously, you won’t believe this movie.

      Also: Can’t Stop the Music, and The Apple

  19. Battlefield Earth.

    Come on!

  20. Against The Ropes. Meg Ryan and two alumni of “Wings.” Bad. Comically bad. Like reels went missing.

  21. As for me I don’t understand why you are so critical in relation to Kevin Spacey. I like this actor and his specific manner of performing. I got good emotions after American beauty and the same I can say about K-Pax.

  22. a real peice of shit…. i don’t liike it…

  23. Courtney  |   Posted on Dec 1st, 2008 0

    Who said League of Extraordinary Gentelmen? I am so glad I’m not the only person who hated that fucking movie. Please do that one I was so surprised that Sean Connery stooped to that low piece of shit with a bunch of well nobodies. It was awful!

  24. I don’t know how you guys missed the boat on the origins of this film and JMAC was the first and only to let you know. “Man Facing Southeast” is a powerful and poetic film which I saw many times. I never saw KPAX and I’m proud of that, I noticed it was a re-make as soon as I saw a trailer for it. Another example of this kind of artistic rape is the remake of Wim Wender’s “Wings of Desire” into the amazingly crappy “City of Angels” with Nicholas Cage and the talentless Meg Ryan. American Studios remake poetic gems without any idea of how to make poetry.

  25. J.V.M.  |   Posted on Dec 23rd, 2008 +1

    It’s not that i’m not positive that k-pax is awful, what about american beauty? that has to be the worst fucking movie of all time.

  26. James P  |   Posted on Feb 19th, 2009 0

    How about “21″. There wasn’t a single thing right about that “film”. Spacey was terrible. The guy from Superbad who wasn’t the guy from Superbad was terrible. The way the movie treated the audience like idiots. Today you will be a rich russian playboy and you will be Chinese immigrant, Morpheaus will never know what hit him. Make sure to go to the same casino over and over again and using giant gestures to tip off your teammates helps, too.

  27. You don’t know your ass from your elbow! You don’t even have enough clout to wipe Kevin Spacey’s lily white ass, you cretinous, moronic excuse of a critic! I doubt you would know a good movie if it came up and bit you in the nose, jackass!

  28. If you don’t like the film that’s fair enough… if you didn’t approve of his acting that’s fair enough. Maybe it just wasn’t to your taste rather than it was a bad film? There are bad films which are enjoyable and respectable films which some people may just not find to their taste.

    First of all, a slight correction here, Prot leaves on July 27th, not July 26th.

    Second of all. The point of the ending. From what I found reading the book, and from watching the film multiple times was that I got the impression it was deciding moreso if Robert Porter was a very convincing dillusional or whether Prot actually ‘borrowed’ Robert Porter’s body to take him to a safe place? Remember also Robert Porter before ever meeting Prot had a very strong interest in astronomy and had advanced knowledge about constellations. If Robert Porter was a convincing dillusional there may not be evidence of it in the brain, I got the impression he suffered severe depression? As far as I know that doesn’t always show up on scans…

    Kevin Spacey’s acting couldn’t have been more perfect either… I can’t really picture anybody else playing that role. The hypnosis bit reminded me a lot of the scene within Donnie Darko, both scenes were convincing to me. Especially considering they were dealing with severely mentally ill patients. When reading a lot of autobiographies about Doctors and mentally ill patients going through treatment, I’ve also heard similar experiences.

    Alongside this, in the book, there is a massive list of references at the back, the amount of research that went into this novel is incredible and again assists in creating a believable story.

    Aside from the other characters in that place, I also find myself getting very emotional in this film, the beautiful soundtrack by Edward Shearmur adds a perfect finish to the film.

    Like I say, fair enough if this film wasn’t to your taste, and if you preferred other Kevin Spacey films. But don’t give inaccurate and unfair comments towards it, in all honesty I can think of plenty more terrible films which lack any depth, emotion or vaguely good acting. Try Dead or Alive maybe?

  29. People like you should not be able to review movies. You get pissed off because you don’t like it and make parts of it out to be absurd when they aren’t. For example you said: “his eyes can detect infrared light (that’s a thing doctors are always testing eyes to find out if they can do)” But what you don’t say is that the reason they are testing his eyes for light is because he refuses to take off his sun glasses because the light is to bright so they test his eyes to see if they are overly sensitive to light . Then you go off at the end saying: “The fact of the matter is most mental patients, particularly those who have been permanently or extensively hospitalized, have very serious problems by which they might hurt themselves or others, and to depict them as goofy captives in a silly string prison is not only a tremendous stretch of the truth and a bizarre Disneyfication of PSYCHOSIS, it’s also just kind of rude.” They didn’t depict them as captives in a silly string prison, they depicted them as mental patients in a mental hospital. And are you a psychiatrist? If not then who are you to say that they are making a “Disneyfication of PSYCHOSIS? Just because you don’t like a movie doesn’t mean you need to go spouting off your angry BS and trying to make parts sound absurd without giving all the details.

  30. Best example of Worst Critic Ever:

    Filters out parts of the movies without full detail and making the reader go along with their flow lol.

    Good thing i watched the movie before i even read his critics lol


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