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3 reviews, 9 user ratings

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Human Nature
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by Chris Parry

"Much ado about back hair."
2 stars

Those of you that marveled at the originality, quirkiness and outright ‘Bizarro world’ appeal of Being John Malkovich would no doubt have been looking forward to screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s second feature film outing, but chances are you’re about to be let down in a big way. Human Nature, the story of a woman covered in monkey hair, a scientist who teaches mice table manners with electric shocks and a man who thinks he’s an ape, is as trite, long-winded and misdirected as any sophomore effort of the past ten years.

Patricia Arquette plays Lila, a woman afflicted with a medical condition that sprouts hair all over her body. Desperate for a little man-meat in her life, she clamps herself onto Nathan Bronfman (Tim Robbins) a screwed-up scientist so smothered by his parents' harsh upbringing that he feels the need to instill the same discipline on the rest of society. He doesn’t love monkey-girl, rather he wants a little ‘french’ from the French girl who works for him (Mirando Otto), but Lila proves hard to lose. And then there’s Puff (Rhys Ifans), the man raised by a father that thought he was an ape, who is now trying hard to overcome his ape-like sexual drive so that Doc Bronfman will quit giving him electric shocks.

And then there’s the audience, looking at their watches every five minutes.

Hey, I’m all for originality, Being John Malkovich is one of my favorite films of the last five years but as often happens when a rookie hits it big with his first outing, the second is a disappointment. Directed by Michel Gondry, the film doesn’t suffer in any area but its conception. Gondry is the man responsible for Bjork’s award-winning music videos and also the invention of the camera technique whereby many cameras around a person take a picture at once, allowing the viewer to swing around an objection in freeze frame (made famous by The Matrix). While he doesn’t do much wrong, the simple problem here is that the movie isn’t very interesting, isn’t very funny and isn’t particularly noteworthy. Aside from a few one-liners and some Farrelly Brothers-like comedy scenes, the wit and magic of Being John Malkovich is nowhere to be seen.

Arquette, Robbins and Ifans try hard to make this a memorable affair but they’re really not armed with words that can help them succeed in their task. Arquette in particular has her clothes off more often than a Filipino hooker offering freebies in a frat house, but her body is generally coated in a pubic hair-like rug of dark hair, all but obscuring the bits you might like to see. Ifans spends a large amount of time either naked or in baggy tighty-whiteys, continuing a tradition that has been his norm since his role as Spike in Notting Hill.

Robbins… well, any time Robbins is trying to be funny he seems to just be trying too hard. Even in classic fare like Bull Durham, Robbins seems to deliver his comedy with a smirk on his face, leaving his image as more of a caricature than portrait. Whereas John Malkovich was hysterical in Being John Malkovich because he was being himself, Robbins is the other side of the coin - a character that lacks realism – and that lack of realism makes all the difference when the punchline hits. Or flops, as the case may be.

Human Nature at least tries to be different, which means it’s six hundred times better than your average Matthew Perry movie. But chances are that the only audience members willing to go through this flick with a smile (including the musical sequences) are the cappuccino set, who still claim Citizen Kane to be the best movie of all time.

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originally posted: 09/17/02 06:10:39
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User Comments

7/04/07 fools♫gold Other Kaufman flicks are some of my favorite-of-favorites, but this is STILL great! 9+/10 4 stars
8/06/05 Zack Best screenwriter of the 1990s. Whatever happened to this guy? 5 stars
12/14/03 chris this movie was so random and i liked it alot 5 stars
9/16/03 Goofy Maxwell No significant scenes til the end. Gondry uses music surprising awkwardly (where's Bjork?) 2 stars
1/28/03 aiken drum found it enjoyable, very whacky, laughed a bit. 4 stars
11/29/02 mr. Pink Not perfect by all means, but the first hour especially is truly original 4 stars
9/17/02 Buddha Tough to like. Seems to me like quirk for quirk's sake. 3 stars
4/19/02 Heather Good for a laugh, very offbeat, needs more plot though 4 stars
6/25/01 J.Arcane It ain't bad - Ifans steals show. It's no Being Malko though. 3 stars
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  12-Apr-2002 (R)


  02-Jul-2001 (M)

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