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What Planet are You From?

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: What Planet are You From?

Starring: Garry Shandling, Annette Bening
Director: Mike Nichols
Rated: R
RunTime: 104 Minutes
Release Date: March 2000
Genre: Comedy

Review by John Beachem
2½ stars out of 4

How do you think an alien would react if forced to experience the trials of human dating rituals? This is the main idea behind "What Planet are you From?", the new comedy from director Mike Nichols ("Primary Colors", "The Birdcage"). Garry Shandling ("The Larry Sanders Show"), who also developed the film's story, plays the lead role. The truth is, I went into this movie not expecting a whole lot out of Shandling. I've never cared for his previous roles, and the previews looked somewhat bland. Much to my surprise, "What Planet are you From?" turned out to be quite an enjoyable movie with fairly consistent laughs throughout. This is mainly because not only does Shandling do an admirable job, but he is surrounded by a great supporting cast.

On a planet way the hell out there, a race of men is preparing to take over the universe by sending minions to have sex with women from every other race in the galaxy. Harold Anderson (Garry Shandling) has been chosen to procreate with a female from Earth. His planet's leader (Ben Kingsley) prepares him with the necessary training (in a very amusing opening scene) and gives him two days to conceive a child. However, upon his arrival, Anderson finds that his training has not prepared him for the illogical behavior of humans. He immediately seeks help from a co-worker (Greg Kinnear) and is soon introduced to a suitable mate named Susan (Annette Bening). Anderson is faced with two problems now: First, Susan will only mate with him after they are married, and second, his arrival on the planet has aroused the suspicions of an airport employee (John Goodman) who soon discovers who Anderson really is.

I think the funniest thing about Shandling's performance throughout "What Planet are you From?" is that he reacts to everything thrown at him in such a logical manner. For example, in one scene Susan is upset with Harold for watching television rather than paying attention to her. She hurls the remote against the wall, smashing it. Harold immediately decides to purchase a new remote, which further infuriates Susan. She then shouts "Fine, just go!" Harold promptly nods his head and leaves. Annette Bening is perfectly cast as Susan, managing somehow to look hassled, angry, and deeply confused all at once. She also manages to save Shandling at times when his lack of experience in a leading role begins to show.

The supporting cast is, in fact, one of the best things about this film. Greg Kinnear ("Mystery Men", "As Good as it Gets") is perfect as the king of sleaze balls everywhere. Ben Kingsley ("Species", "Schindler's List") is a great choice as the straight as an arrow ruler of Anderson's planet, though he is a bit underused. John Goodman ("The Big Lebowski"), who I believe is one of the best comic actors in Hollywood, is hilarious in his role as the one man who thinks he knows the truth. One of the biggest problems I had with the film was that Goodman was so underused that his character seemed rather pointless. Linda Fiorentino ("Dogma") makes a brief appearance as Kinnear's wife, and Janeane Garofolo shows up in a cameo as an airline passenger.

The film may not make a whole lot of sense, since we are never told just how Anderson's impregnating a woman will bring about the downfall of the species, but plot isn't exactly the point here. While "What Planet are you From?" manages to keep the humor going through the majority of its length, things do get a bit too sappy and sentimental towards the end. If it had been trimmend down some from its 112 minute running time I probably would have given it four stars. One last thing I must note is that Annette Bening plays a real-estate agent in the film ("American Beauty", anyone?). For a very funny script, a surprisingly good turn by Garry Shandling, and a great supporting cast, I give "What Planet are you From?" three and a half out of five stars.

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* * * * * - One of the greatest movies ever made, see it now. * * * * - Great flick, try and catch this one. * * * - Okay movie, hits and misses. * * - Pretty bad, see it only if you've got nothing better to do. * - One of the worst movies ever made. See it only if you enjoy pain.

Copyright 2000 John Beachem

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