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The set up of this film seems simple and silly enough.  On a planet a thousand years more technologically advanced than Earth, the entire population is male clones with no sex organs, no emotions, and nothing better to do than conquer the Universe.  Their technique--though it's never explained--involves impregnating a woman on the planet they wish to take over.  So their leader, Graydon--played by Ben Kingsley in a nice turn--instructs them in the fine art of seducing an Earth woman, which to their minds mainly consists of complimenting her hair and shoes. Their quickest learner, H1449-6 (Gary Shandling), is chosen to perform the deed and is whisked to Earth where he is deposited in the lavatory of a passenger jet.  The disruption this causes the flight brings him to the attention of an NTSB inspector (John Goodman).  But he is able to rapidly establish himself in a job as Harold Anderson, bank loan officer, and, thanks to the womanizing connivance of a co-worker (Greg Kinnear), he's soon romancing a recovering alcoholic, Susan Hart (Annette Benning), who they meet at an AA meeting where they've gone to scam babes.  And so we have the basic dramatic tension of the film: Will Harold be discovered before he can complete his mission?

The film gets to this point mostly on the strength of battle-of-the-sexes humor and some physical comedy involving the mechanical penis that Shandling's character has had attached to enable him to complete his mission.  It continues in this vein through the early portion of Harold's relationship with Susan, but when he ends up having to marry her to get her to bear his child the inevitable humanizing takes place and a more serious message starts to peak out from beneath the more sophomoric sex comedy and the unfortunately disjointed story line.  This initial message concerns the utter emptiness of the modern mating game, which is all about sex and only peripherally, if at all, about meaningful interaction between two people.  By the end--when Harold realizes that Graydon won't let Susan keep their baby and that the experience of love, loyalty, sex, death, and all the rest that makes us human is superior to the supposedly advanced bioengineered culture of his home world--it's become very much a political film, whether intentionally or no.  It comes down so firmly on the side of humanity as it is, with all our glorious and maddening imperfections, and against the vision of a future that is perfect but soulless, that regardless of an over reliance on genitalia jokes it ends up being a profoundly conservative movie, and a pretty funny one at that.

(Reviewed:21-Oct-02)

Grade: (B+)

Websites:

See also:

    -FILMOGRAPHY: Mike Nichols (Internet Movie Database)
    -INFO: What Planet Are You From? (IMDB)
    -FILM SITE: What Planet Are You From? (Sony Pictures)
    -American Masters - Mike Nichols (PBS)
    -A website with Mike Nichols and Elaine May
    -PROFILE: Mike Nichols: Wizard of Wit (Betty Rollin, Look)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: What Planet Are You From? (MRQE)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: What Planet Are You From? (Metacritic)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (James Berardinelli , Reel Views)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Christian Spotlight on the Movies)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Bob Graham, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Wesley Morris, SF Examiner)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Kenneth Turan, LA Times)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (ELVIS MITCHELL, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Desson Howe, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (LOUIS B. HOBSON, Calgary Sun)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (RANDALL KING, Winnipeg Sun)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (LIZ BRAUN, Toronto Sun)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (David Edelstein, Slate)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Stephanie Zacharek, Salon)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Dennis Lim, Village Voice)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Caroline Palmer, City Pages)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Anne Daughtery, PopMatters)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Keith Phipps, Onion AV Club)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Ron Wells, Film Threat)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Scott Von Doviak, Culture Vulture)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (ROBERT PAYNE, Reel.com)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Ian Grey, Baltimore City Paper)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Michael S. Goldberger, film-u-net)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Cinema Sense)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Warren D. Adkins, Gay Today)
    -REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Manohla Dargis , LA Weekly)
    -DVD REVIEW: of What Planet Are You From? (Bill Clark, DVD Angle)

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