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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.41%
Worth A Look37.04%
Average: 29.63%
Pretty Bad: 25.93%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 9 user ratings

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Human Nature
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by EricDSnider

"From the writer of 'Being John Malkovich.' What else do you need to know?"
4 stars

Charlie Kaufman wrote the whacked-out script for "Being John Malkovich" and has followed it up with "Human Nature," a story just as daft and surreal, though not quite as funny.

Rhys Ifans -- the odd roommate in "Notting Hill," the reprobate soccer player in "The Replacements," one of the weird townsfolk in "The Shipping News" -- delivers a breakthrough performance as Puff, a boy who was raised not by apes, but by his insane father, who THOUGHT he was an ape. Puff lives in the forest, alone since the death of his father, until one day he is discovered by nerdy scientist Nathan (Tim Robbins) and his nature-loving girlfriend Lila (Patricia Arquette). Nathan's plan, a la "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan" (and, more than a little, "Young Frankenstein"), is to take Puff back to the city and civilize him.

Nathan and Lila come with their own baggage, though. Nathan is obsessed with table manners, having been bred that way by his ridiculously anal retentive parents. Lila is cursed with more body hair than Robin Williams, and alternates between embracing her differences and trying to shave them off. Both are socially awkward and prone to embarrassing behavior.

It should not be a surprise that in "civilizing" Puff, Nathan takes the humanity right out of him. The film is about accepting who we are -- hirsute, chimp-like or sloppy, we're all in this crazy world together, my brother. Let it be.

Fortunately, this message is driven home precisely but not overbearingly. This is a comedy, and a funny (though seldom hilarious) one. Director Michel Gondry has an appealing visual style that perfectly complements Kaufman's outrageous script; it is pleasant to note that Spike Jonze, who directed "Being John Malkovich," serves here as a producer. Gondry, Kaufman and Jonze should always work together, as their minds seem to be from the same very, very odd universe.

Robbins and Arquette are perfectly good in their roles, taking a backseat to the inspired madness of Ifans. Praise be that Ifans knows when to be restrained and subtle; can you imagine the forced lunacy that would occur if Jim Carrey were to play a jungle man?

This is a trippy, enjoyable social satire with enough goofiness to please audiences without so much oddness that it freaks them out.

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originally posted: 05/10/02 07:39:53
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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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