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Human Nature

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Human Nature

Starring: Patricia Arquette, Tim Robbins
Director: Michel Gondry
Rated: R
RunTime: 96 Minutes
Release Date: April 2002
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Charles MacKenzie Bebak, Rhys Ifans, Miranda Otto, Mary Kay Place, Robert Forster, Miguel Sandoval, Rosie Perez

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

"Remember -- when in doubt, don't ever do what you really want to do," Nathan Bronfman (Tim Robbins) advises Puff (Rhys Ifans) on his first day free in the wilds of modern civilization. After Oscar nominee Charlie Kaufman's wonderfully weird first film script, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, viewers have been wondering what's next. HUMAN NATURE, his follow-up effort is just weird, although it certainly does have its moments.

Having accepted a fat Gwyneth Paltrow (SHALLOW HAL) and a badly disfigured Tom Cruise (VANILLA SKY), audiences will now have to endure an extremely hairy Patricia Arquette as Lila Jute, a woman who could get a job as a freak in a circus sideshow. Rosie Perez plays Lila's cosmetologist who tries to keep her client hair-free.

The story concerns Puff, a man who was raised in the forest by a man who thought he as an ape. The story is told in flashback as Puff testifies before a congressional committee, while the police interrogate Lila and while Nathan sits ruminating in an all-white purgatory.

Lila, who herself headed to the woods as a preteen when her hairy condition first appeared, becomes a recluse and an avant-garde nature writer. After leaving the wilds as an adult, she goes to live with Nathan, a seriously disturbed scientist who uses electro-shock conditioning to teach table manners to mice. It seems that his parents were the types who punished him for using the wrong fork at dinner. In revenge, he is dead set on inflicting the same pain on white mice until they learn fork etiquette.

Moving up from mice to humans, Nathan puts Puff in a glass cage and uses electrodes to teach him civilized behavior. A seriously sexy Miranda Otto plays Puff's lab assistant and seducer.

The movie works best and is the funniest in the scenes of Puff's conditioning. Devoid of female companionship his entire life, Puff has trouble controlling his sexual urges, even with major jolts. Even a picture of a naked woman is enough to have him attacking it. "Shan't happen again," Puff always tells them quite properly after his sex drive gets the better of him. Other than sexual cravings, his behavior is exemplary from evenings attending the opera to putting on his own performance of "Peter Pan." Most of this, however, happens completely in simulation behind his glass walls. When they let him out in the real world, he has troubles.

So where do they take Puff for his "acid test?" To Chester's (really Hooters), of course. That's undeniably cruel and unusual punishment.

HUMAN NATURE runs 1:32. It is rated R for "sexuality/nudity and language" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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