Film Review: What Planet Are You From? (2000)

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What happens when you mix science fiction, sex comedy, star who is unknown outside realms of broadcast television sitcoms and director whose specialty are serious dramas? The answer at times can be surprisingly positive, like in the case of What Planet Are You From?, 2000 film directed by Mike Nichols.

The plot begins on a distant planet inhabited by a race of aliens that resemble humans except in one important detail – they are asexual. That doesn’t prevent their leader Graydon (played by Ben Kingsley) to hatch Earth invasion plan that involves sex. He gives one of aliens (played by Garry Shandling) an artificial penis, new identity under name “Harold Anderson” and orders him to go to Earth, seduce as many women as possible and make them pregnant in order for their children to take over the planet. Harold arrives in Phoenix, Arizona and his mission doesn’t go well until he meets Susan (played by Annette Bening), woman who is charming despite being recovered alcoholic. She agrees to marry him and Harold gets new job and certain emotions he never encountered before. But, as Susan’s unusually accelerated pregnancy comes to an end, Graydon warns him that he must leave Earth. In the meantime FAA investigator Roland Jones (played by John Goodman) becomes convinced that an alien has boarded a plane and begins to track down Harold as prime suspect.

What Planet Are You From’ resembles The X-Files or, to be more precise, more light-hearted and sillier episodes of that series. It was released a month before “Hollywood A.D.”, show’s self-parodic episode in which Shandling, main star and co-writer of the film, played an actor playing Fox Mulder in fictional film. Shandling, whose forte was stand-up comedy, is actually quite good as Harold and makes audience root for the character despite some of his actions being questionable. The rest of the cast is also good, like Bening and Kingsley, and always reliable John Goodman delivers another effective performance. The script is, on the other hand, rough around the edges, with some subplots that go nowhere, like the one involving adulterous couple played by Greg Kinnear and Linda Fiorentino. Nichols, on the other hand, directs film well and is quite comfortable with R-rating that allows What Planet Are You From? to become sex comedy that actually has somewhat “spicier” content that involves profanities, sex and nudity. Although not particularly memorable, this science fiction comedy ultimately delivers the good to audience with lowered expectations.

RATING: 5/10 (++)

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