WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM?
Shandling plays H1449-6, an alien from an all-male planet whose
population has relied on cloning for so long that they have no
penises. But their desire to take over the galaxy (starting with
Earth) requires that they build a population on the targeted planet.
This means impregnating an Earth woman, and H1449 is chosen to
do the job. He is fitted with artificial genitalia, given the
name Harold Anderson, and sent to Phoenix, where he gets a job
as a banker and promptly starts hitting on women. But since the
leader of his planet (Ben Kingsley) is ignorant of how to relate
to a woman, his training consists mainly of complimenting her
shoes and saying "uh-huh" in between her sentences.
Luckily, he meets Perry (Greg Kinnear), a co-worker who helps
him with such subtle tactics as attending A.A. meetings for the
sole purpose of picking up recovering female alcoholics.
Finally Harold meets a woman who's willing (Annette Bening),
but Susan insists on getting married before sex. Soon the happy
couple are in Vegas tying the knot and getting busy. A few weeks
later, Susan is expecting, and after a lightning-fast pregnancy,
she gives birth to a bouncing baby boy. But Harold's growing sense
of Earthly emotion results in a breach of his contract and gets
him in a heap of trouble back home. A side story, which has almost
no bearing on the main plot, is the obsessive quest of an airline
detective (John Goodman) who is onto Harold and his alien plan.
Like The Whole Nine Yards,
this film's tone is in conflict. Its first half plays like a silly
farce (although much of it is like a documentary on date rape),
but at some point it uncomfortably mutates into romantic comedy.
Some elements, like the buzzing of Harold's fake penis or the
opening tutorial on Earth women, rely on the preposterous to get
a laugh, but the domestic squabbling between Harold and Susan
is almost too real. The fact that they barely know each other
is unpleasant rather than funny; it's like watching the honeymoon
recently enjoyed by the couple on Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire?
What's more, the script is dreadfully sexist. All the film's women
are regarded, by the script and the male characters, as sexual
conquests, and extramarital affairs are not only accepted but
encouraged. And the female characters only further this notion:
all of them are either hot to trot (Harold is able to actually
"score" with several women despite his pushy dating
style and his whirring member) or nagging bitches who jump to
conclusions with minimal provocation.
There are a few notable performances. Kinnear's portrayal of Perry is by far the funniest in the movie; his slimy charm and unbridled opportunism remind me of a Dabney Coleman character from the '70s. Bening's characterization of Susan is heartfelt; even if she is mismatched with the script, she gives reality to her scenes. And Goodman is adequate in his dippy part. But Shandling's Harold is not someone you can get behind, and his script is written with about as much knowledge of human interaction as . . . hey, wait a minute. Maybe he is an alien. **½
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