Garry Shandling’s first starring vehicle is pretty much a one-
joke movie, about a fellow from a highly advanced planet
populated only by men who’s sent to earth to impregnate a
terrestrial woman; but in an era when best-sellers have titles
like “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” it’s a decent
enough joke, especially when it’s cleverly written and nicely
played (especially by the deadpan Shandling, whose growling
delivery can elicit a chuckle even with a weak line).
The plot plays out much as you’d expect from the premise: the
alien, who somehow gets a job in a bank, learns some dating
lessons from a sleazy co-worker (Greg Kinnear, perfectly cast),
but initially gets nothing but rejections. (A particularly
troublesome element in his early attempts to secure female
companionship lies in the fact that he’s equipped with an
artificial male member that emits an electronic whine
when excited–something not terribly conducive to a romantic
atmosphere). Eventually, though, he wins over a lovely (if
alcoholic) gal (Annette Bening), and they’re soon expecting,
though the pregnancy turns out to be a trifle unusual.
Meanwhile the extraterrestrial is being hunted by a wild-eyed
FAA investigator (his teleportation to earth involves the use
of a certain facility on airplanes) played by John Goodman, and
constantly prodded to finish his assignment by his planetary
superior (Ben Kingsley), who, as it turns out, has some
menacing plans for old earth.
All of this is awfully tame and conventional when compared with
the barbed wit of “The Larry Sanders Show,” and it does come
across as a very calculated mixture of sexual innuendo, fish-
out-of-water farce and, toward the close, sticky sentiment.
Still, it manages to wind up as almost consistently amusing,
largely due to the efforts of the estimable cast and the
mostly efficient helming of Mike Nichols (although toward the
close, when the story takes a turn toward comic action, things
go slightly awry and the picture grows increasingly ragged).
In the final analysis “What Planet Are You From?” may not be
much more than a big-screen, less slapsticky version of “Third
Rock From the Sun,” but with Shandling’s perpetual slow-burn
and some pleasantly offbeat dialogue to give it punch, it
proves an amiable time-waster.