"What Planet Are You From?" was a pretty major effort all around; big sets, fairly big actors and a large budget paired with a major director (Mike Nichols). I wanted to catch it in theaters, but it dissapeared after a couple of weeks. This is one of those films where it doesn't succeed because...well, that's a mystery. It's actually an pretty funny picture that deserved a bigger audience.
The film starts off introducing us to a far-off planet full of what look to be men, but who are missing...well, something. There are no women in the population, and the leader of the planet(Ben Kingsley) has to pick one of its inhabitants to send to Earth to procreate so that the colony can continue. He arrives on Earth and finds himself working at a bank and with the more Earth-friendly name of Harold Anderson.
The instant he arrives he begins his quest, but with not too much in the way of luck. The only thing he's armed with is an array of lame pick-up lines, which are actually pretty funny. Those, and the well, you-know-what that Shandling's character is fitted with, which makes a buzzing noise whenever he sees an Earth woman that he wants to mate with. That's probably the least funny gag of the film, which does better with some fairly sharp insights and jokes about relationships - you know, the whole "men are from Mars, women are from venus" thing.
He meets a potential mate in Susan(Annette Benning) a real-estate agent and recovering alcoholic. Although it doesn't make much sense, the two quickly get married and things begin to go badly rather quickly. In the meantime, he's being followed by an FAA agent who wants to confirm if he's an alien who crash-landed on an airplane in fight(long story.) The film is best when it's between Shandling and Benning, who are quite funny as a married couple trying to figure things out.
Although Shandling isn't quite strong enough a comedic actor to carry "What Planet" all the way through, he's pretty much perfect to play an alien who's clueless about relationships, with his sort of distant, "I'm not really acting" way of performing. Benning is also pretty solid as a woman who doesn't always make the right choices and wants desperately to make this one work. It's when the film drifts onto other subplots like the one with Goodman, or any scenes with Greg Kinnear (who plays a bank co-worker) that the film stumbles.
I was pretty suprised, though. Certainly not perfect, "What Planet Are You From?" does still have a lot of funny moments and a moderately good performance in the lead from Shandling. A pretty entertaining light comedy.
VIDEO: Tristar offers "What Planet Are You From?" and the results are nothing suprising. From all of the releases that I've seen from the studio, I've only been dissapointed in maybe a couple. This is more of the usual from the studio, a marvelous looking picture that's consistently pleasing. Sharpness is perfect, with the presentation looking smooth and clear throughout. Detail is also excellent. Colors are especially pleasant, looking realistic and vibrant, never displaying any problems. Flesh tones are natural and accurate, and black level is strong, as well.
Distractions are kept to an almost complete minimum. There's no instances of shimmering or pixelation apparent, and the only thing I noticed was a very slight mark or two on the print used. As with most Tristar releases, there's not that much to talk about here - all of the elements look great in another fine effort from the studio. Michael Ballhaus("Goodfellas", "Wild Wild West")'s cinematography makes for more interesting compositions than most comedy fare.
SOUND: This is really a "mainly-from-the-front" film when it comes to audio. Although there are some nice touches, the majority of the film remains as the usual for comedic fare, not too agressive or terribly creative in its presentation. Surround use is pretty infrequent and not terribly effective. The musical score does sound very well-recorded and natural, but doesn't really envelop the lister or make much of an impression. Dialogue is solid - natural and clear.
MENUS:: When Tristar offers animated menus, they really go all-out - the menus for "What Planet Are You From?" take the viewer through space in an animated clip before arriving at the main menu.
Trailers: "Men In Black"(Dolby Digital 5.1), "What Planet Are You From?"(Dolby Digital 5.1) and "Wolf", "Bugsy" and "As Good As It Gets"(Dolby 2.0)
Making-Of: A few minutes in length, this is the usual promotional featurette, offering interviews with the cast chatting about the movie as well as some clips from the film.
Also: Talent files and isolated score(Dolby Digital 5.1)
Final Thoughts: "What Planet Are You From?" is a sweet-natured, goofy comedy - although flawed, there are still some funny moments. Tristar's DVD doesn't offer that much in the way of extras, but video quality is very good and although it's not too remarkable, audio quality in general is pleasing. Rent it if you're looking for a light comedy.
The Film B-
Video 93/A = (372/400 possible points)
Audio: 85/B = (340/400 possible points)
Extras: 79/C+ = (237/300 possible points)
Menus: 85/B = (170/200 possible points)
Value: 82/B = (246/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: B-
DVD GRADE: B