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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Annette Bening Marries Extraterrestrial
by Betty Jo Tucker

First, a disclaimer. The headline above does not refer to Annette Bening’s real-life husband. Warren Beatty might seem a bit unusual at times, but he’s no alien from outer space (at least no one can prove it). No, the extraterrestrial in question just happens to be Garry Shandling, Bening’s co-star in What Planet Are You From?

"Shandling is a remarkable guy who’s just naturally funny," Bening said enthusiastically in a telephone interview. "He’s a very dear friend of mine, and it was a pleasure working with him. We had lots of laughs making this movie."

Viewers will have plenty of laughs too while enjoying the quirky chemistry between Bening and Shandling in their clever sci-fi spoof. Directed by Mike Nichols of The Graduate fame, Planet is billed as a "cosmic battle-of-the-sexes that shows no matter what race, religion, or planet of origin, men will always be men."

Bening plays the object of Shandling’s mission. He’s been sent to Earth to impregnate a woman and have a child. In spite of very funny training sessions on his own planet, Shandling finds he knows nothing about how to relate to earthlings of the female species. He tries applying all the lessons, such as telling women he likes their shoes and how nice they smell. Nothing works until he meets a sweet recovering alcoholic (Bening) who actually seems attracted to him!

Bening (American Beauty) and Shandling (The Larry Sanders Show) give wonderful performances here. They are a delight to watch together. No matter how ridiculous the story appears, viewers can’t help hoping this intergalactic marriage will work out. Adding to the fun are Ben Kingsley (Gandhi) as the authoritarian leader of Shandling’s planet, John Goodman (The Big Lebowski) as a suspicious FAA agent, Greg Kinnear (Good Will Hunting) as a sleazy philanderer, and Linda Fiorentino (Dogma) as Kinnear’s seductive wife.

This movie’s raunchiness will offend some viewers. There’s a running gag about an artificial reproductive organ that hums when aroused. "Maybe it doesn’t know the words," says one of the characters. Raunchy or not, What Planet Are You From? delivers a gentle message of hope about the future of the universe. Far out, man.

(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated "R" for nudity, sexuality, a shooting, and adult language.)

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