K-PAX is a 2001 American science fiction-mystery film based on Gene Brewer's 1995 novel of the same name, directed by Iain Softley, starring Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Mary McCormack and Alfre Woodard. The film is about a psychiatric patient who claims to be an alien from the planet K-PAX. During his treatment, the patient demonstrates an outlook on life that ultimately proves inspirational for his fellow patients and especially for his psychiatrist.
After claiming he is an extraterrestrial from the planet 'K-PAX', 1,000 light years away in the Lyra constellation, prot (uncapitalized and pronounced with a long O) is committed to the Psychiatric Institute of Manhattan. There, psychiatrist Dr. Mark Powell attempts to cure him of his apparent delusions. However, prot is unwavering in his ability to provide cogent answers to questions about himself, K-PAX, and its civilizations. His medical examination only reinforces his story, as prot can see ultraviolet light, which no human can, and he is completely resistant to the effects of the powerful tranquilizer thorazine. Dr. Powell introduces him to a group of astrophysicists who are befuddled when prot displays a level of knowledge about his claimed star system that was unknown to them.
prot also exhibits total control over the other patients at the Institute, each of whom believes unquestioningly that he is indeed from K-PAX. prot, who claims to have journeyed to Earth by means of "light-travel", explains that he can take one person with him when he returns. Thereafter, most of the patients at the Institute ask to be taken by prot on his journey back home.
Upon learning that many of his patients expect to leave Earth on July 27, Dr. Powell confronts prot, who explains that it is a predetermined date. However, Powell believes this to be a significant date in prot's life, a day on which he suffered a severe psychological trauma. Powell decides to subject prot to regression hypnosis, which works well. Using information gained from these sessions, Powell figures out that prot may simply be an alter ego of Robert Porter, a man from New Mexico whose life had been devastated by the murder of his wife and child in 1996. Powell tries to confront prot with this knowledge, but prot's reaction is one of bemusement, and he cryptically tells Powell that he hopes he will take good care of Robert now that he has found him.
On July 27 as the hospital staff watch, the camera in Porter/prot's room cuts to static at the precise time prot said he would leave Earth. Powell finds Porter lying on the floor in his room, catatonic, prot having apparently left Porter's body for the light travel back to K-PAX. The other patients do not recognize Robert as he is being wheeled out of the room. In addition, one of them is missing: Bess, a woman who had remained mute since her home was destroyed in a fire and who had been among the patients that asked to go to K-PAX with prot. She is never found. Powell continues to take care of the catatonic Porter and tells him about how the patients he helped have gone on to live normal lives again, but Robert does not respond. Powell is left with no absolute answer as to whether prot was in fact an alien entity or just a coping mechanism of the traumatized Porter, but seems far from convinced that prot/Porter's behavior was a delusion.
The final scene's voiceover is prot explaining to Powell that the people of K-PAX have discovered that our universe will repeat its events again and again, so the mistakes we make will be repeated forever, and prot encourages Powell to make this time count as it is the only chance we have. With this in mind, Powell reconciles with his estranged son.Kevin Spacey as prot/Robert Porter
Jeff Bridges as Dr. Mark Powell
Mary McCormack as Rachel Powell
Alfre Woodard as Dr. Claudia Villars
David Patrick Kelly as Howie
Saul Williams as Ernie
Peter Gerety as Sal
Celia Weston as Doris Archer
Ajay Naidu as Dr. Chakraborty
Tracy Vilar as Maria
Melanee Murray as Bess
John Toles-Bey as Russell
Kimberly Scott as Joyce Trexler
Conchata Ferrell as Betty McAllister
Vincent Laresca as Navarro
William Lucking as Sheriff
Norman Alden as Babbling Man
Aaron Paul as Michael Powell
K-PAX received mixed reviews and has a 41% rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 139 reviews with an average rating of 5.1 out of 10 with the consensus being "For those who have seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or Starman, K-PAX may not hold anything new. The movie works best as a showcase for Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges." The film also has a score of 49 on Metacritic based on 31 reviews indicating mixed or average reviews
Roger Ebert wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times, "I admired how the movie tantalized us with possibilities and allowed the doctor and patient to talk sensibly, if strangely, about the difference between the delusional and that which is simply very unlikely.” A. O. Scott, on the other hand, wrote in The New York Times, "K-PAX is a draggy, earnest exercise in pseudo-spiritual uplift, recycling romantic hokum about extra-terrestrial life and mental illness with wide-eyed sincerity." At Variety, Robert Koehler said, "In a movie treating light dramatically, John Mathieson's lensing makes the screen pulsate with light, shadow and spectral color making any glossed-on special effects irrelevant." However, Claudia Puig at USA Today concluded, "Besides being saddled with the year's worst title [...] this misguided movie is shackled by its own overreaching sense of importance and foggy earnestness."
Along with the mixed critical reception K-PAX was also a box office disappointment making only $65,001,485 worldwide off a $68 million production budget, including $50,338,485 in North America and $14,663,000 elsewhere.
Complaints of plagiarism of the 1986 Argentinian film Man Facing Southeast were made by its director, Eliseo Subiela. Subsequently, Gene Brewer and others connected with the K-PAX film were sued in November 2001. The complaint was later withdrawn as the trial stretched over time and Subiela didn't have enough money to keep the litigations. Subiela still claims that his film was plagiarized by the makers of K-PAX. Gene Brewer went on to release a memoir exploring his inspiration for the books called Creating K-PAX or Are You Sure You Want to Be a Writer?