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What Planet Are You From?

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 101 mins . M15+ . PAL


Isn’t it great to see Hollywood give a break to some 13-year old boys who are aspiring film writers? Huh? What do you mean this was written by grown men?!

Here we have a film from Mike Nichols, responsible for such past works as The Graduate, Primary Colours, Silkwood and Working Girl, and a man we should expect a lot better than this from.

OK folks, here’s the synopsis. Some kind of alien race, consisting entirely of emotionless males (hmm, sounds kind of familiar) decide they need to send an emissary to Earth to impregnate a woman as the basis for their intent to take over the planet (huh?).

Garry Shandling (The Larry Sanders Show) is the chosen one, Harry Anderson, and as his race’s sex organs have essentially shrivelled up due to lack of use (reality check – guys have hands), he gets fitted with an apparently technologically advanced appendage so that he can fulfil his mission. The thing in question is SO technologically advanced that it emits a loud hum whenever he gets aroused. Yes, we’re talking quality stuff here, folks.

He is despatched to Earth, arriving in a flash of light in the toilet (quite appropriately) of an airliner in mid flight. This sets up a sub plot of a jaded FAA inspector (Fred Flintstone) who wants to get to the bottom of what actually happened.

He falls conveniently into a job, where he runs into married womaniser/co-worker/co-conspirator/eventual backstabber Perry Gordon (Greg Kinnear), a guy so utterly slimy that it’s a wonder he doesn’t slide off screen completely whenever he appears. He drags Harry to an AA meeting (his place of choice for picking up) where Annette Bening’s character, Susan, is introduced. This is a good time to say that Annette is a beacon of quality and dignity in a sea of complete puerility – and also steals the show entirely with a totally gorgeous sing and dance to High Hopes. She deserves a sainthood for enduring the indignity of all this.

Whenever flummoxed by human emotional complexities, Harry calls upon his leader, portrayed by Ben Kingsley. Yes, the Oscar winner who played Gandhi for heaven’s sake, reduced to making his exit from their meeting place, the airplane toilet again, by literally flushing himself – perhaps a rather apt metaphor for what he’s done to his career?

So anyway, Harry and Susan eventually hook up, have a quickie marriage (as Susan won’t have sex before donning a wedding ring), have a 21-hour straight bonk-fest on their honeymoon night (to the strains (literally) of Lionel Richie’s abysmal All Night Long – ooh, haha), she eventually conceives, puts up with Harry turning into a remote-loving, sports obsessed lunkhead (hey, he’s adapting to this human thing quite well), brings a baby to full-term in three months and then…

Harry is recalled to his planet, and unbeknownst to him so is he and Susan’s baby by his leader. Having seemingly grown a conscience in his struggle to understand the mating rituals of humans he nabs his child (a son, of course) and hotfoots it back to Susan, who is (justifiably) nonplussed to say the least – especially when she gets the “I’m an alien from another planet, baby” spiel. However he proves himself by emitting a blinding white light from his nose. No, I’m not making this up - and I don’t think I need to divulge any more, you should have a fair idea of what's going on by now...


Oh good, I can actually say something nice in this section.

It is very hard to find fault with the quality of the transfer here. It’s anamorphic, clear and sharp and the colours are suitably, well, colourful. The occasional speck flashed up here and there, as well as the odd bit of shimmering in some finely detailed scenes, however I doubt this would be enough to worry anybody, especially those who would actually enjoy this film (not to cast aspersions or anything…)

What a shame it was all wasted on this stinker, when some utter classics haven't fared nearly as well...


Presented in Dolby 5.1, I actually expected a bit more surround usage from this film, especially after being almost floored by the Dolby helicopter chop-chop-chopping around my lounge room and the nice wooshy effects used in the menus. But there were no particularly spectacular effects to wow at (and face it, this film needs anything remotely resembling a ‘wow’ factor that it can get its icky little paws on).

However, whoever put this disc together should at least be commended on the inclusion of an isolated music soundtrack, as it’s certainly a more enjoyable way to get through the film. Composer Carter Burwell, who has a credits list longer than the pizza strings in Top Secret (as well as everything from the glam-fest Velvet Goldmine and the rather underrated Joe’s Apartment, he is also the Coen Brothers maestro of choice) does another bang-up job, running the gamut from epic space tunes to cheesy sleazy stuff whenever Greg Kinnear slimes into view with seeming ease.

Oh, and if you listen really, really intently you may just hear the sound of turkeys gobbling in the surround speakers...


The disc starts decently enough with a rather fine animated surround workout, before plummeting you into a static menu. On venturing into the special features menu you are confronted with...

Cinematic trailer: Enough to make any vaguely sentient being think to themselves, “I don’t think I’ll even bother hiring the video after this lasts one day in the cinema”, this is presented in full screen. Heaven knows why.

“Making of” featurette: Just over five minutes, or about one and a half when you cut out the clips from the actual film. Also presented in full-screen, the interviews seem to intimate that the people behind this atrocity actually thought they were making something genuinely funny. Bwah-ha-ha, foolish earthlings!

Talent profiles: The usual, a few static screens with career highlights of the major players in the film. When you consider how many Oscar winners are featured it all gets a tad frightening…

…and that’s about it, adding, of course, the aforementioned isolated music soundtrack – by far the best extra inclusion here.


There’s no other way for me to say it – this film smells of poo. I have been known to have a perverse attraction to films so bad that they’re good, although this is usually due to budgetary constraints (such as having none at all in the case of such kind-of-geniuses as Ed Wood), however this is just so bad it’s badder. The only thing that kept me riveted was the quest to see if it could plumb even further depths of inanity and cringe-worthiness – believe me, it could.

Whilst some may argue that this is a very clever look at the complexities of human relationships and that I have completely missed the point, well - they would be just plain wrong! If that was indeed the original intention then something certainly went horribly awry somewhere, as What Planet Are You From? is saddled with such a fetid, sexist, stereotyped and totally blokey payload it just comes across as a childish mess – it doesn’t even know if it wants to be a comedy, drama, space epic or what – as the tone changes considerably about half way through the film.

In the end I was left wondering just how on earth such incredibly talented folk as the magnificent Bening, Kingsley and Flintstone could have agreed to work on this bomb, the only solution forthcoming? Garry Shandling (who before this I thought was clever and witty, I’m now not so sure) must have some really good dirt on them, or they must owe him a LOT of money. Kudos though to Janeane Garofalo, whose humourous (albeit completely stereotyped) cameo goes uncredited – obviously she is a wise woman, and I apologise to her profusely in case this review ever pops up in a web search for her name.

As a film I am hard-pressed to think of anybody to recommend this to. Perhaps thirteen year old, testosterone-controlled boys (or indeed those men who still fit that category) will get off on the pathetic misogyny and crap ‘humour’ that abounds here. Or perhaps if the thought of hearing Ben Kingsley say the word “penis” in his best pompous voice innumerable times causes you to titter profusely. However anybody with even an ounce of intelligence would be far better looking into something altogether more classy and highbrow – say, Porky’s, Weekend at Bernies, Dumb and Dumber or even the execrable A Night at the Roxbury. What Planet Are You From? is truly in a class of its own, and I sure hope it remains lonely.

As a DVD the quality is there visually, and sonically it scrubs up OK. Features are thin on the ground, but there is that soundtrack which helps make up for things. If you happen to know the film (you were one of the eleven people who paid to see it?!) and indeed happen to like it, I’ll avoid the urge to recommend a good psychologist and say you should be happy with this disc. Anybody else AVOID.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=471
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      And I quote...
    "...truly in a class of its own, and I sure hope it remains lonely."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Home Built
    • Surrounds:
          No Name
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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