'Natural Selection' Fails to Evolve; Clichs about Faith and Family Can't Overcome a Shaky Road-Trip Premise. Two Stars

Article excerpt

In the surreal first scene of the road-trip dramedy "Natural Selection," a lively creature wriggles free from a bag with a grim label. The movie tries to do something similar, clawing through clichs about faith and family, but the creature that comes out is too misshapen to embrace.

The biggest problem is its spindly legs. It's hard to accept the shaky premise that Linda White (Rachael Harris) has been trapped for 24 years in a marriage with Abe (John Diehl), who prays whenever his wife mentions sex. In a sophomoric satire of religious hypocrisy, Abe suffers a stroke at the sperm bank he secretly visits. Linda discovers that his donated seed produced a son, and she vows to find him before Abe dies.

The road leads from Houston to a shack in Tampa, Fla., where Abe's biological son Raymond (Matt O'Leary) is a junkie who wants nothing to do with the nice Christian lady knocking at his door. But when the cops come looking for Raymond, he hops into her hatchback. …