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Here's a forgotten little thing that happened back in 2001: Kevin Spacey starred as Prot, a man claiming to be from a distant planet called K-PAX in a movie called just that.

Prot is found early on wandering around a train station and is soon taken to a mental institution where Jeff Bridges' psychiatrist meets him and tries to figure out whether Prot is really from K-PAX or whether he's just a very troubled fellow and, if so, what could have prompted creating such a fantastical and convincing persona. The film is kind of a cross between Starman and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest as the very off-beat Prot meets all the colourful characters living in the institution and has an impact of some sort on their lives. Kevin Spacey finally lives up to his last name and delivers a decidedly "spacey" performance, his Prot being a complex character to say the least: on the surface he's a wise, friendly, if eccentric, alien with cool Bono-style sunglasses but there is something deeper and darker about him also.

The film works a bit like a whodunit in that you're constantly wondering who or what this Prot really is and, since he promises early on that he'll be taking one person back to his home planet, you're also wondering who the lucky person will be! The relationship between Prot and Dr. Powell (Bridges) is the core of the movie, though, and the conversations adapted from Gene Brewer's novel are just as involving as they were on the written page, as are the hypnosis sessions later in the film. Although Powell and the audience are given some answers, the film leaves enough questions open to keep the ending ambiguous and interesting enough. K-PAX could have easily backfired as a movie and been too cheesy or preachy but it does genuinely well to stay competent. The cast and Spacey in particular all do a brilliant job, Edward Shearmur's score is memorably spot-on and the whole thing is pretty darn charming, which is why the darker moments in the film work quite well as a sobering contrast to the magical wonderland that is K-PAX.

There's something irresistible about this movie and, although it is admittedly derivative in some ways, it also manages to be its own little oddity, its own gem. While it's maybe not for everyone, most should have fun trying to decipher whether Kevin Spacey really does eat bananas like an animal or whether he's, in fact, from 1,000 light-years away in the Lyra constellation.


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