K-PAX (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Iain Softley
Produced by Robert F. Colesberry
Lawrence Gordon
Lloyd Levin
Screenplay by Charles Leavitt
Based on K-PAX 
by Gene Brewer
Starring Kevin Spacey
Jeff Bridges
Music by Edward Shearmur
Cinematography John Mathieson
Edited by Craig McKay
Lawrence Gordon Productions
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s)
  • October 26, 2001 (2001-10-26)
Running time 120 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $48,000,000
Box office $65,001,485[1]

K-PAX is a 2001 American science fiction and mystery film directed by Iain Softley and starring Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Mary McCormack and Alfre Woodard. The screenplay, written by Gene Brewer and Charles Leavitt, is based on the novel K-PAX by Brewer 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 rhyming with "wrote") 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. Dr. Powell introduces him to a group of astrophysicists, to whom prot displays a level of knowledge that puzzles 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", has explained that he can take one person with him when he instantaneously returns. Thereafter most of the patients at the institute ask to be taken to K-PAX.

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 then 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 has been devastated by the murder of his wife and child in 1996.

On July 27 as the hospital staff watch, the camera in prot's room cuts to static at the precise time prot said he would leave Earth. Powell finds prot lying on the floor in his room, catatonic. The other patients do not recognize Robert as he is being wheeled out of the room. In addition, one of them is missing: Bess, mute since her home was destroyed in a fire and one of the patients that asked to go to K-PAX with prot. She is never found. Powell continues to take care of the catatonic Robert and tells him about how the patients he helped have gone on to live normal lives again, but Robert does not respond.

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.



Will Smith was initially interested in starring in a film adaptation and agreed to it under his first-look feature deal at Universal Pictures, for producers Lawrence Gordon and Susan Pollock.[2]

Critical response[edit]

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.”[3] 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."[4] 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."[5] 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."[6] IMDb has a 74% rating for the film,[7] while Rotten Tomatoes holds a 41% rotten rating.[8]


Plagiarism lawsuit[edit]

Complaints of plagiarism of the 1986 Argentinian film Man Facing Southeast were made by its makers, and Gene Brewer and others connected with the K-PAX film were subsequently sued in November 2001. The complaint was later withdrawn, and 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?.[9] Man Facing Southeast also inspired a scene in the 1993 Hollywood film Mr. Jones, in which Richard Gere plays a manic-depressive who jumps up on stage during a performance of Beethoven's Ninth and starts conducting, leading to his arrest and confinement in a psychiatric hospital, exactly like the character in the Argentinian film.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "K-PAX". Box Office Mojo. 
  2. ^ Chetwynd, Josh (April 20, 1998). "Smith lands on 'K-Pax' alien mystery for Uni". The Hollywood Reporter 352 (10): 1. 
  3. ^ Roger, Ebert (2001). "K-Pax". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  4. ^ Scott, A. O. (October 26, 2001). "FILM REVIEW; Now Arriving on Track 10: The 3:15 From Outer Space". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Koehler, Robert (October 25, 2001). "K-Pax". Variety. 
  6. ^ Puig, Claudia (2001-10-25). "Loopy 'K-PAX' is lost in Spacey". USA Today. 
  7. ^ "K-PAX". IMDb. 
  8. ^ "K-PAX". Rotten Tomatoes. 
  9. ^ "Other Books". GeneBrewer.com. Retrieved 2010-08-08. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
From Hell
Box office number-one films of 2001 (USA)
October 28
Succeeded by
Monsters, Inc.