Here is the most uncomfortable movie of the new year, an exercise in feel-good smut. "What Planet Are You From?" starts out as a dirty comedy, but then abandons the comedy, followed by the dirt, and by the end is actually trying to be poignant. For that to work, we'd have to like the hero, and Garry Shandling makes that difficult. He begrudges every emotion as if there's no more where that came from. That worked on TV's "The Larry Sanders Show"--it's why his character was funny--but here he can't make the movie's U-turn into sentimentality.
He plays an alien from a distant planet where the inhabitants have no emotions and no genitals. Possibly this goes hand in hand. He is outfitted with human reproductive equipment, given the name Harold Anderson and sent to Earth to impregnate a human woman so that his race can conquer our planet. When Harold becomes aroused, a loud whirring noise emanates from his pants.
If I were a comedy writer I would deal with that alarming noise. I would assume that the other characters in the movie would find it extremely disturbing. I put it to my female readers: If you were on a date with a guy and every time he looked dreamy-eyed, it sounded like a whirring garbage disposal was secreted somewhere on his person, wouldn't you be thinking of ways to say you just wanted to be friends? The lame joke in "What Planet Are You From?" is that women hear the noise, find it curious and ask about it, and Harold makes feeble attempts to explain it away, and of course the more aroused he becomes, the louder it hums, and when his ardor cools, the volume drops. You understand. If you find this even slightly funny, you'd better see this movie since the device is never likely to be employed again.
On Earth, Harold gets a job in a bank with the lecherous Perry (Greg Kinnear), and soon he is romancing a woman named Susan (Annette Bening) and contemplating the possibility of sex with Perry's wife Helen (Linda Fiorentino). Fiorentino, of course, starred in the most unforgettable sexual put-down in recent movie history (in "The Last Seduction," where she calls the bluff of a barroom braggart). There is a scene here with the same setup: She's sitting next to Harold in a bar, there is a humming from the nether regions of his wardrobe, etc., and I was wondering, is it too much to ask that the movie provide a hilarious homage? It was. Think of the lost possibilities.
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