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IN SHORT: "It's Garry Shandling's Movie..."
...which is how the advertising folks should have billed this very funny flick, 'cuz none of 'em obviously watched the damned thing. Thus the ad campaign which implies that an alien being from a planet of men and only men, comes to earth to father a child and save his planet. Nope. The advanced society of said planet wants to conquer earth. It's said so right at the top of the flick, as Star Wars-like background titles roll up the screen. Why making one baby with an earthling would enable these aliens to conquer earth is beyond me, but logic needs no reason in this story, a perfect setup to Garry Shandling's type of reaction humor, which is firing on all cylinders in this flick.
And just forty or fifty years ago, all alien planets were stocked with busty, barely clad women, all desperately in need of a good shtup. Now, in the first Year Zero in a century, we are confronted with the intellectual and technological inhabitants of a Planet we'll call X, all male and all dressed in black and gray Armani suits, looking like the clones that they are. Without women, this society has gone beyond the need for emotions or relationships or the private parts that play such an important part in each.
Thus, H1449-6 (hereafter Harold Anderson) is dispatched to to Arizona, USA, to find and knock up one of our own. This being accomplished, their dastardly plan to do away with our various lifestyles would be underway . . . except that they've sent Garry Shandling. Harold's assignment has him posing as a loan officer at a bank, where an incredibly sleazy co-worker (Greg Kinnear) shows him the ropes of picking up chicks. One chick happens to be Susan Hart (Annette Bening) who has enough problems of her own and has dealt with them by deciding, among other things, not to have sex until she is married. Harold, whose mind is on nothing but procreation, pops the question after one date. From there on in, What Planet... quickly becomes a learning experience for the ET as to what relationships truly mean. Just as director Mike Nichols' The Birdcage wasn't as much about gay life as it was about families, so is What Planet... more about the male/female thing than alien conquest.
OK, we'll forgive the marketing people for this one...
What Planet Are You From? is a Garry Shadling comedy and it delivers all the chuckles you associate with GS, once again taking a concept fit for a trashy TV sitcom (and, yes, I do sorta kinda like 3rd Rock From The Sun, though it took awhile) and elevates it to a level of comedy fit for adults. Any fan knows that Shandling has made an art of creating inept, and intellectually funny, characters. Any fan will not be disappointed. With a very small dose of low-brow humor added to the mix, the folks just looking for a good time will not be disappointed, either.
John Goodman plays the FAA investigator hot on Harold's tail. Teevee faces Nora Dunn, Camryn Manheim play Susan's friends. Ben Kingsley plays Graydon, leader of Planet X (and while July 14 is still months -- and a different movie studio -- away, any X-Men fanboy is going to catch at least two very in jokes at the end of this flick). All are positive reinforcement to the gags.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to What Planet Are Your From?, he would have paid...
If you're not a Shandling fan, What Planet... is still a better than average time in the dark. For those of us that wonder why we should shell out for something that's been done in broad comic strokes on teevee . . . 'cuz it's funny. That's why.
Our LA based correspondent Paul Fischer sat with Annette Bening to talk about Planet, her American Beauty nomination and baby stuff (her fourth with husband Warren Beatty, due soon) for CrankyCritic® Star Talk
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