In The Invasion, the newest Body Snatchers redo, we are guided to sense something is amiss when dogs growl and bark frantically at seemingly normal people. An alien virus may be able to enslave its human host in a cocoon of emotionless hive-minding, but it won't be truly unstoppable until it masters the art of deceiving household pets.
Aliens capable of fooling humans for more than half a second might be nice, too; The Invasion lacks a single moment in which an alien's human impression is less than immediately obvious. The best, most tense bits give us the opposite: humans desperate to pass as unfeeling zombie versions of themselves to escape capture and infection. Nicole Kidman, playing a psychiatrist traversing DC and Baltimore to fetch her imperiled son, creeps along sidewalks and subway cars, trying not to cry or shriek or even sweat, hoping to hide in plain sight. Kidman is a wonderful actress, but her movie-star turns need more eccentricity than the film requires; she's far more convincing doing a nervous imitation of icy pod people than playing a Jodie Foster-style loving/avenging mother.
Despite all its sleek tracking shots of Kidman walking and running through the ravaged streets, The Invasion is stubbornly, clumsily verbal -- one character, a shrewd scientist, speaks almost entirely in exposition, despite being played by skilled character actor Jeffrey Wright. The blather extends even to the background, where mere mentions of pandemics, terrorism, and the war in Iraq are supposed to count as topical relevance even as most of the movie's imagery recalls other, better movies rather than the immediacy those movies (think 28 Days Later or Children of Men) display. Purists and/or cynics will no doubt insist that director Oliver Hirschbiegel's film was dumbed down by studio interference (producer Joel Silver brought the Wachowski Brothers and their protégé James McTeigue in for reshoots). But you'll have to look hard to find any traces of a lost art film; few scenes, only moments, rise above the B-movie dialogue and cardboard characters. If Hirschbiegel's baby was strangled, it happened in the crib.