Now that “The Larry Sanders Show” is behind him, Garry Shandling is following pal Warren Beatty into the movies after the awful “Love Affair”. This time the comedian has written his own script, directed by Mike Nichols. With a bunch of his celebrity friends in tow, Shandling apparently writes what he knows: girl trouble and aliens.
Four star systems away, there is an advanced planet populated only by men. Long ago they eliminated emotion in favor of intellect. The world’s supreme leader (Ben Kingley) has decided to conquer Earth, but first, one man from this planet must mate and produce a child with an earth woman. Why? I not sure, but maybe even on a chick-less planet you still need to get laid before you can focus on the task at hand.
Selected for the job is Harold Anderson (Shandling). As the men reproduce by cloning, their packages have shrunk to nothing. While Harold is provided a humming mechanical penis, it won’t prepare for what lies ahead.
On Earth, Harold takes a job at a bank in Phoenix, clumsily hitting on every female in his path. He soon meets Perry (Greg Kinnear), boyishly handsome, charming, opportunistic and completely amoral. I can only guess that Robert Downey Jr. was in jail at the time of filming. Perry teaches Harry where to pick up girls, eventually ending up at an AA meeting to find a few while they are emotionally vulnerable. Harold takes a shine to the fragile Susan (Annette Bening), a recovering alcoholic. She reads what she wants into Harold and the mating dance begins. Hard lessons ensue as our alien learns that not all the intellect and reason in the world will necessarily help you against an hysterical woman.
Thankfully, Shandling did not forget to be funny. The best reason to enlist the aid of director Nichols, though, is that the laughs aren’t so much from jokes as the painful identification between the audience and the scenes playing out. It means nothing if the aliens may be smarter and more technologically advanced. Harold has to play by the rules down here. It’s tough enough for us Earthlings to know what to do in a relationship. The alien is soon a complete mess. What hope do his people have of conquering Earth when humans are too socially and emotionally complex for each other to understand?
Shandling and the movie are a little uneven and the star comes off a bit awkward and too aware of his character until he meets Susan. It all pays off since the author is both serious about and successful in exploring the difficulties of communication within relationships. Garry’s working through some sense memory from somewhere. If there’s any moral imparted, it’s this: Relationships are a monster pain in the a*s and are have a rougher withdrawal than a crack habit, but who wants to be without one?