Review by Jurgen Fauth
Kaufmann's plot has too many reversals and switches built into it for a brief summary - suffice it to say that it concerns a scientist (Tim Robbins) obsessed with teaching mice table manners who falls in love with an unnaturally hairy nature writer (Patricia Arquette). On a hike through the woods, the couple comes across Tarzan, or rather his weak, masturbating 21st century incarnation (Rhys Ifans). They take him in and, in the name of scientific discovery, attempt to civilize him through a series of cruel experiments. The scientist's lusty fake French assistant (Miranda Otto, who we'll see much more of in the next installment of the "Lord of the Rings") complicates matters by tempting various males.
"Human Nature" wants to be both an all-out hilarious comedy and a semi-serious socio-ecologic fable on the human condition, but it fails miserably on both counts -- it is largely devoid of both jokes and arguments. In fact, the only thing to be learned from the film is that once you have a hit in Hollywood, you can get away with anything.
Most disturbing I found the obvious contempt the film has for its characters. They are all irredeemably flawed, pathetic, selfish, vain, and treacherous. From the start, we are aware where they end up - dead, in prison, and, even worse, testifying before Congress - and it speaks volumes for this film's peculiar kind of waste that we aren't any closer to them by the time the it's all over. The characters' undoing is, I assume, supposed to be our pleasure, but I find this sort of contempt for humanity cynical and off-putting, especially since it is glossed over with a visual style that is reminiscent of the glib aesthetics of an AT&T commercial.
Like in the recent disappointments "The Royal Tennenbaums"
there's a problem here you might call whimsy overload. A ton of cute ideas
do not a satisfying movie make. Granted, there's a single good joke involving
mice with table manners, and Tim Robbins miraculously manages to squeeze
a bit of depth out of his thankless role, but all in all this is filmmaking
that is much too enamored with itself, too jealous and proud of its own
achievement to allow itself to be embraced.
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