WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM?
Despite all promise to the contrary, What Planet Are You From? emerges exactly as lame as it sounds. The premise aches with corny predictability. Every plot device that Garry Shandling will fall in love with Annette Bening, that he will turn against his alien masters turns with a dull predictability. The subplot that gives dramatic impetus to the gags that of a fanatical government official determined to prove the aliens existence has been xeroxed from Coneheads (1993).
What one in fact has here is ersatz science-fiction science-fiction designed by people who know nothing about science-fiction. Science Fiction (even comedy) requires an internal consistency, that some attempt be made to show that what is happening operates on internal rules of logic. What Planet Are You From? lacks that. You cannot have comedy playing on Garry Shandling being a total fish out of water and unable to understand the subtle nuances of relationships and then on the other hand delivering one-liners that require a sophisticated knowledge of Earth humour. We never know why the aliens want to breed with humans or why this is necessary to their invasion plan, we never even find out why there is a planet solely of cloned men. The assumption is that this is science-fiction so these things do not need explanations. The science-fiction elements are only regarded as a springboard to the comedy Mike Nichols doesnt concern himself with the hardware of the genre, limiting himself to an absolute minimum of effects shots (not necessarily a bad thing, but one that tends to reinforce the fact that the film is trying to run as far away as possible from its science-fiction content).
Not even that any of this need be a bad thing either My Stepmother is an Alien had little knowledge of science-fiction but made up with a likeably zany sense of humour. However, What Planet Are You From? stumbles through its routines with a ghastly tedium. It has a handful of gags and milks them so much that one groans every time they come up one lost count of how many times it tried to play the gag of Garry Shandlings artificial penis humming like a vibrator when he is aroused. Garry Shandling, whose performances always seem to consist of haplessly agonized facial shrugs just like he had done something terrible in his pants in the midst of a polite dinner party, puts much effort in (he after all did write and produce the film) and Annette Bening, John Goodman and Greg Kinnear all try valiantly. However, the material is hopelessly weighed against them.
Mike Nichols is the director of films like Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), The Graduate (1967), Catch 22 (1970), Silkwood (1983), Working Girl (1987), Postcards from the Edge (1990), Closer (2004) and Charlie Wilsons War (2007). Mike Nicholas has made occasional ventures into genre material: with the talking dolphin film The Day of the Dolphin (1973), the interesting werewolf film Wolf (1994) and the stunningly surreal AIDS drama Angels in America (2003), featuring a wildly hallucinatory series of angelic visitations.