|WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM? (2000)|
|"You appear intelligent, but when you open your mouth the effect is spoiled."|
|Time: 104 mins.|
Being a big fan of Garry Shandling's comedy, I keep hoping that there will be a film that captures the genius of his humor. When I saw the trailer for this film, I had a smidgen of hope. It has a great cast Kingsley, Goodman and Bening and a talented director, so they must have seen something of value in this story. After watching it recently, I'm not really sure what that something was, but it had to be better than the final product. It's not that anyone did anything horribly bad, the film just never came together as a cohesive unit. There were three very different plot lines that just don't belong with each other. Perhaps if the film had a stronger leading man, it wouldn't have been so disjointed. It's just that I didn't really care about the sub-stories Goodman's quest to prove Shandling is an alien or Kinnear's quest for woman and a promotion. The former is supposed to add suspense to the story, but fails miserably since Shandling is only on Earth for a short time and no one believes Goodman. The latter is there to enable Shandling to develop human emotions like anger, disappointment and betrayal. All somewhat important to the main thrust of the story, which has him falling in love with Annette and learning to be a human being, yet the angle is more distasteful than funny.
One of the other main problems with the story is the alien culture itself. Yes, it looks very futuristic, all gray, black and white, but they don't seem to be all that different from us. Except for the fact that they have no emotions, no women and no penises. To that end, it is the directive from Graydon (Kingsley), the leader of this advanced civilization, that one of their own must go down to Earth and impregnate a woman to help solidify the future of their race. If they were so smart, how did they get themselves into this situation to begin with? Besides which, don't they think the women would send out a cry of holy terror when their babies start disappearing? These issues are never addressed since we don't learn very much about this superior race, just that they know nothing about women. Harold's (Shandling) prime directive is to have sex as soon as possible once he lands on Earth. This makes him like every other man on the planet (are you seeing the humor?), except for the fact that he doesn't hide his desire behind sweet talk and presents. After being strongly rebuffed, he begins to learn it's going to take more than compliments about shoes, to get a woman to have sex with him.
To appear normal, he gets a job at a local bank and befriends Perry (Kinnear), one of the other loan officers. Perry is married, but that doesn't stop him from getting it on with everything that wears a skirt. His wife Helen (Fiorentino), initially seems clueless to his philandering, but it becomes clear she looks the other way because she's unfaithful herself. On an outing with Perry they attend an AA meeting to pick up fragile women Harold sees Susan (Bening) and is immediately struck by her beauty and sense of humor. The next time he sees her he convinces her to go out on a date with him. She finds his attempts at conversation both strange and endearing, since he doesn't talk like any other man she's ever known. Though she likes him, she refuses to have sex with him unless they get married. Cut to Vegas and a 21-hour love making session that defies belief. Harold could go on forever since his penis is only attached and not really a part of his body. It also hums. How cute. Susan wants to take a break and get to know Harold better they only knew each other for a couple of weeks. He just wants to do it. That is until she gets pregnant, then he wants nothing to do with her. After all, his job is done. He has no clue what a relationship is, never mind how to conduct himself as a real husband. Sound familiar, ladies? Funny, huh?
Meanwhile, Roland (Goodman), an FAA official who investigates unexplained occurrence on planes during flight, has figured out that Harold is the key to a number of turbulent disturbances in recent months. He's bound and determined to unmask Harold as an alien being, but no one believes his story...not even his wife. It seems Harold has super genes, causing the pregnancy to progress at a rapid pace. In the delivery room after only 3 months, he is amazed at the miracle of childbirth. We're supposed to believe that holding his newborn son changes his entire perspective on love, marriage and world domination. This was more than I could swallow and this film expects you to accept a lot of crap before you even get close to this point. It's supposed to be a clever and funny look at male/female relations, but all it boils down to is one long cliche. I guess they thought the male misbehavior would be more palatable because he's an alien, but that just doesn't fly. If I were a man, I'd be offended. What's amazing is that Bening's character is well-written and believable. Susan is one of the truest depictions of a regular gal to come along in quite awhile. It's too bad they couldn't write the male parts that well.
WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM? has some genuinely funny moments, but they are few and far between. There's pretty good chemistry between Shandling and Bening and he even manages to give a fairly decent performance. The film just lacks a solid direction. It's a mish-mash of ideas that don't belong in the same film together. It's like MEN IN BLACK crossed with THE FAMILY MAN. Not a good combination. Plus, most of the supporting cast (Goodman, Kinnear & Fiorentino) are just wasted in poorly written, unredeemable roles. The ending is also completely ridiculous, but nothing worse than any of the previous 90 minutes. This is definitely the best film Garry Shandling has ever been in, but that's not saying much. It's not the worst film I've ever seen, however, with a cast and crew like this, it's a major disappointment all the same. If you like Shandling or are looking for some truly mindless entertainment, WHAT PLANET isn't a total waste of time. Of course, if you have a choice, you might want to look elsewhere.