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What Planet Are You From

"What Planet Are You From" on DVD

Out of This World Comedy

Columbia Tristar's DVD of Mike Nichols "What Planet Are You From" is a refreshing change. It's a romantic comedy that's both funny and romantic. It's also silly yet intelligent.

Garry Shandling, who co-produced and co-wrote "Planet," is an alien named Harold. Part of a super-race that's emotionless and genitalia-less, he's sent to Earth to begin the planet's invasion - from the inside. His mission is to impregnate an Earth Woman (who turns out to be Annette Bening).

Harold arrives on Earth via the rest room of an airborne Boeing 727 and, since his job is to impregnate a woman - any woman - immediately starts hitting upon every person with breasts that he meets.

His arrival via a commercial airline - and the havoc the arrival wreaks on the flight - brings him to the attention of a suspicious FAA official (John Goodman), who spends the rest of the film destroying his career as he searches for the truth behind Harold.

Unfortunately, Harold's otherworldly genesis means that, for him to procreate, he's had to have an artificial penis installed - and it doesn't work as well as it should. This leads to some good comedic moments, though it also runs into the danger of being a running gag that runs out of steam. Fortunately, Nichols, Shandling and the rest of the production team just managed to avoid this fate.

During the course of his ultimately successful mission - though it's not successful in the way the aliens powers that be (led by Ben Kingsley doing his best Patrick Stewart impression) had planned - Harold discovers that his race can learn from ours.

"What Planet Are You From" is nearly as much about the battle of the human sexes as it is about aliens from space. There's some great men vs. women stuff in it, and they milk it for all it's worth.

Shandling isn't the greatest actor, but his relatively wooden face comes in handy for a supposedly emotionless alien and that ends up being a positive thing. Bening is marvelous as the recovering alcoholic looking to turn her life around. Greg Kinnear is also very good as the unscrupulous scuzzbag who mentors - and screws - Harold. Goodman's role is kind of like Richard Dreyfuss' part in Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" - the ordinary guy who puts everything on the line, and loses it, in his search for "the truth that's out there" and Goodman has a fine time in the part.

The DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen and Pan&Scan on opposite sides of the disc. Picture quality is excellent, as is the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. Extras include a "making of" featurette, an isolated track featuring Carter Burwell's musical score, talent files, production notes, trailers, etc.

"What Planet Are You From" is the only Mike Nichols film this reviewer has seen that has actually made him laugh out loud. Several times.

What Planet Are You From, from Columbia Tristar Home Video
107 minutes, Widescreen (1.85:1)/Pan&Scan, Dolby Digital
Starring Garry Shandling, Annette Bening, John Goodman, Greg Kinnear, Linda Fiorentino
Produced by Mike Nichols, Garry Shandling, and Neil Machlis
Written by Garry Shandling & Michael Leeson and Ed Solomon and Peter Tolan, Directed by Mike Nichols


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Updated May 13, 2006