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Human Nature (R)
Official Site
Director: Michael Gondry
Producers: Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze, Julie Fong
Written by:Charlie Kaufman
Cast: Rhys Ifans, Patricia Arquette, Tim Robbins
Rating: out of 5

We all like to think of ourselves as a pretty damned civilized Homo sapiens. We eat with utensils, we rarely relieve ourselves directly onto the pavement and, hey, we can make a nice mocha grande with minimal effort. As a species, we rock. But what would happen to us if, say, when we were infants our parentsí SUV flipped off an embankment somewhere in the wilds and we were snatched from the car and raised by animals? Would we grow up with the instinctive knowledge that we must cover our nether regions and always signal when making a turn? Would we know, not in our minds but in our souls, that there was a show called ďFriendsĒ and that we loved it unconditionally? No, of course not. Weíd be swinging from vines, chasing down animals for our grub and mating with anything that looked hot in full body fur. Itís human nature to be the free, wild thing we wish we could be and that brings us conveniently to our aptly titled movie.

A young man is found in the woods, having been raised as a gorilla by his father, who was insane. He is taken to a lab and studied by a scientist, who is the most nerve-crackingly civilized person to ever leaf though an Emily Post Guide to Etiquette.The scientistís wife is a former forest-dweller herself. Sheís been living in self-imposed isolation due to her aesthetic problem of having hair all over her body. The three are all brought together in a charmingly amusing way and a sort of awkward love triangle begins as they all begin to regress or ascend, depending on the person or the point in the film.

Human Nature is a nice film, sort of the independent-minded version of a Hollywood popcorn movie. Sure, it has some intelligent things to say about the very nature of our humanity, not to mention love and sex. And sure, itís certainly better written than, say, The Wedding Planner. But at the end of the day, itís about as weighty as a box of fluff, which isnít a bad thing. I was taken aback by the light-heartedness of it all because the film is written by none other than Charlie Kaufman, the madman behind the already classic Being John Malkovich. Malkovich was one weighty piece of work, causing everyone who saw it to do some serious thinking out in the lobby. And while itís still a good film in its own right, Human Nature just doesnít have the emotional gravitas that it needs to make it the true classic it desperately wants to be.

That said, thereís quite a bit to like about the film. Besides being pretty amusing, it has a nice flow to it, save for a few draggy spots toward the end. And the performances are all fun, with Rhys Ifans really standing out as the wildman. His take on the role is quite original and could have been a real contender come awards time had he been given just a little more to work with. Tim Robbins and Patricia Arquette are good too as the doctor and hairy wife, respectively, though Robbins seems to be downplaying his character almost to a fault. At any rate, they all gel together as an ensemble and it works in the end.

Is this a must see? Well, probably not. You could go on living having never seen Human Nature and you would end up pretty much the same. Is it worth seeing? Yeah, sure. Itís a good time in the theater and it has some nice things to say about a few interesting topics. If for nothing else, you should see it for the primal nod to our true selves; the wild men and women who lurk just below our collective surface. Weíre all apes after all, and the ape in us deserves its own film.

ó Clinton Davis


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

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