WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM?
(director: Mike Nichols; screenwriters: Garry Shandling/ Michael Leeson/Ed Solomon/Peter Tolan/based on a story by Mr. Shandling and Mr. Leeson; cinematographer: Michael Ballhaus; editor: Richard Marks; music: Carter Burwell; cast: Garry Shandling (Harold Anderson), Annette Bening (Susan Hart), Greg Kinnear (Perry Gordon), Ben Kingsley (Graydon), Linda Fiorentino (Helen Gordon), John Goodman (Roland Jones), Caroline Aaron (Nadine Jones), Judy Greer (Rebecca), Richard Jenkins (Don Fisk), Harmony Smith (Rita), Janeane Garofalo (Nervous chatterbox airplane passenger); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Neil A. Machlis/Mike Nichols/Garry Shandling; Columbia TriStar Home Video; 2000)
“It all seems to suffer from jet lag and a lame script and a bad case of crassness.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Mike Nichols (“The Graduate”/”Closer”/”Primary Colors”) directs this sci-fi romantic/comedy that should have been a lot better considering all the talent involved with the project and the wacky premise, even if cheesy, had the potential to be better if executed with greater skill and if the star comedian was one who was better suited for the role. TV comedian Garry Shandling (star of the Larry Sanders Show on HBO) was just not that funny and looked like a fish-out-of-water when he’s asked to go from comedian to the serious romantic lead.
The team of writers, Garry Shandling, Michael Leeson, Ed Solomon and Peter Tolan, have an alien from a planet of emotionless but ambitious cloned men, not programmed for love, come to Earth on a mission to impregnate a woman in their first step to achieve world dominance. This allows for droll and schoolboy humor over such things as the alien’s manufactured penis hums when aroused (the film’s tiresome running gag), the reactions the clueless alien receives to various crude pickup moves and his over-the-top compliments he awkwardly hands out about the babe smelling good and liking the babe’s footwear, and a number of misplaced gags over the battle of the sexes. Hitting the mark infrequently with its overload of juvenile crotch jokes, it flags even further in conclusion when its supposed cutting-edge satire never comes off as that witty to absolve itself from its absurdly sentimental resolution that reeks of bad sitcom. It all seems to suffer from jet lag and a lame script and a bad case of crassness.
Humorless bossy leader Graydon (Ben Kingsley), of an all-male technologically advanced planet, chooses his best subject H1449-6 for the mission to conquer Earth but changes his name to Harold Anderson (Garry Shandling). The alien causes turbulence as he boards a plane heading to Phoenix in mid-flight. In Phoenix, he’s hooked up with an executive banking job and befriends his married sleazy rival colleague Perry (Greg Kinnear). They are soon in a rat-race competition to see who the boss (Richard Jenkins) will appoint vice president, while Perry’s hot slutty wife Helen (Linda Fiorentino) attracts the alien. The colleague takes Harold out to pickup chicks at a strip club and at an AA meeting Harold meets New Ager reformed alcoholic Susan Hart (Annette Bening) and after one date she tells Harold she will only screw him when married. After being married in Las Vegas they have a child and Graydon kidnaps the baby boy and brings it to his planet, but Harold has second thoughts as he finds the Earth woman irresistible and sloppily discovers through her true love. This causes Harold to make a career changing life move, as he returns to Earth with the baby and reunites with his Earth wife (this is crudely taken to be of allegorical significance, that love is the cornerstone to civilization and not technology). The only problem with this fairy-tale ending is that Harold’s still a jerk, even after falling in love.
There’s also a subplot kicking around that never quite materializes as something worthwhile, as relentless F.A.A. official Roland Jones (John Goodman) is called in to investigate the turbulence incident and becomes convinced after viewing a passenger’s video cam that he’s on the trail of an alien invader and tracks Harold down (thinking he’s onto another Roswell alien situation). But as a result of being obsessed that an alien has landed, Roland’s suspicious overbearing wife Nadine (Caroline Aaron) gives him the business thinking he’s having an affair with either a woman or God forbid a man and his bosses fire him for believing without proof that an alien caused the plane to jolt.
The project, with glossy production values, nevertheless seems to be nothing more than a Saturday Night Live sketch.
REVIEWED ON 1/14/2009 GRADE: C+