A throwback to a bygone era, “Bio-Dome” is an off-kilter comedy with an underlying paranoid strain reminiscent of 1950s Cold War angst. The title refers to a scientifically controlled biological environment to which two modern-day Neanderthals inadvertently introduce “the chaos factor.” It’s not by any means inspired madness. Neither the script nor direction lives up to the concept, and the picture evolves into a “Bio”-degradable hash rather than a zany sendup of potent issues and serious intents gone awry. The film looks to be a hit-and-run affair, with limited appeal for fans of Pauly Shore’s brand of anarchic humor. A compost heap of ideas, it’s wholly disposable entertainment that might eke by with passable returns.
College students (with unidentified majors) Bud (Shore) and Doyle (Stephen Baldwin) are on the outs with their girlfriends, who have labeled them Earth Day dropouts. Suspecting the young women are doing more than recycling on an eco project, the duo take to the road in pursuit. But when they make a pit stop, the boys mistake Bio-Dome opening ceremonies for a mall unveiling, and the five scientists partaking in the venture soon find themselves hermetically sealed under the dome with two unwanted guests.
There’s seemingly no way out for a year, and the group’s attempts to elevate the dunderheads’ appreciation of the project appear fruitless. Bud and Doyle wreck havoc on the groundbreaking experiments and embark on makeshift fun and games, like bungee-jumping and golf, that eventually have them exiled to the dome’s desert region.
Pic is saddled with completely irredeemable protagonists. They lack the naif quality of Jim Carrey, and their egghead counterparts are hardly the establishment goons one loves to see deflated. Far too late in the proceedings — after the duo virtually devastate the dome — the prospect of redemption is introduced. But returning the space to homeostasis is a poorly realized afterthought that’s trivialized by turning project leader Noah Faulkner (William Atherton) into a raving, destructive lunatic.
The army of writers appears hellbent on out-grossing “Dumb and Dumber’s” bawdy humor. The diet of insubstantial jokes is ultimately devoid of nutrition and unrelieved by the performers’ charmless characterizations. Shore and Baldwin are rebels without a clue, and the supporting cast have one-note roles that are as restrictive as an impenetrable glass cell.
First-time feature filmmaker Jason Bloom displays no more than pedestrian talent. Tech credits are just OK, though good use is made of the imposing set. The wall-to-wall song score is more assault than enhancement, and as unpleasantly in-your-face as the unlikely heroes.
Definitely a dome of doom, the “Bio” pic is likely to leapfrog the endangered list for deserved extinction.