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It's ironic how some movie titles parallel the path of its storyline. Then there are some that go completely against it. In the case of Human Nature it tends to do both. The subject of human nature itself is obviously a complex nut to crack since we are talking about the evolution of (hu)mankind over millions of years, involving everything between primal brutality to intelligent thought. Yet it is this same aspect which makes these filmmakers believe they can summarise the lot into a cinematic treat of less than two hours. Human Nature uses metaphorical, symbolic, verbal and extremely primitive slapstick practices to appeal to many different ways of thinking, however the result is one of general confusion.

Human Nature
Movie
The story of four human souls is relayed via the classic cliché of flashback memories, although one of them is heard through the afterlife. The events leading up to this aftermath include that of Professor Nathan Brofman (Tim Robbins) found dead in the forest, Lila Jute (Patricia Arquette as old Lila, with Hillary Duff cameoing as young Lila) imprisoned for his murder, ape-man Puff (Rhys Ifans) talking with the United Nations about his unique experiences and Nathan's lab assistant Gabrielle (Miranda Otto) allegedly nowhere to be found admidst all this cacophany.

Nathan Bronfman was a Professor who struggled with his many regressive childhood experiences but interpreted them as civilised behaviour. He soon meets with Lila Jute who, unbeknownst to him, has a rare condition where she sprouts body hair everywhere to which she does everything to conform to society's ideal of womanhood. One day they go out on a nature walk where they become separated, only for Lila to discover a primitive male who lives there and literally falls for her unconscious. Nathan sees this as a sign to take him back to his lab where he feels he can convert this uncivilised specimen into one of sophistication by teaching him table-manners of all things.

Along the way, Gabrielle harbours a secret desire for her boss who is oblivious to her appealing French accent, although at Nathan's request she christens the new human subject as Puff. As Puff's behaviour "improves" in the eyes of Nathan, Lila is mortified at the enforced conditioning of this beautiful creature, especially with the electric shock treatment he receives to suppress his sexual urges. Finally, Puff is deemed ready to experience the outside world, but as time goes by there are many re-evaluations made by all involved about what is really important to each of them. Love quadrangles ensue as well as various twists and turns that prove what Human Nature truly is.

Whilst this isn't the worst of films I have seen in recent memory, I can't help feeling that Human Nature is the result of the writer's and/or director's own personal eccentricities exhibited to the full. The exploration for how humans interact and react to themselves here ultimately comes down to interpretation. In the end it just centres around the civilised art of table-manners as well as repressing all sexual urges, which is basically what the world revolves around anyway. This film isn't without its good points though with the rather inventive lyrics to the songs sung by Patricia Arquette's character, as well as the insightful observations of the human condition spouted by the ape-man, played by Rhys Ifans.

Human Nature
In the end Human Nature is microscopic in its viewpoint, but still provides some thoughtful prologues into imposing one's behaviour and civility onto someone who isn't entirely capable of assimilating it. This not only happens when one society attempts to overtake another's cultural identity, but also when certain people within a society are unable to conform to the ideal. This is all presented under the guise of satire and triple-meanings, so you definitely need your thinking-cap for this one.

Video
Presented in an anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 ratio, this movie proves that a clear image isn't the best thing for slightly dodgy CGI effects. Whilst there is little to complain about with the clarity of what is seen, it works against the CGI when every little shortcoming destroys the suspension of disbelief that is required to believe that a man can indeed swing from tree to tree.

Focus is quite sharp, so much so that the blending of different visual elements is too clean to be taken as reality. Colour is nicely saturated whilst retaining that natural look with no blooming apparent. Grain is effectively a moot point, virtually no film or compression artefacts to worry about and only a slight case of shimmer to contend with. Black levels and shadow detail well rendered but not nearly to the same level as its big-budget blockbuster cousins. Night-time scenes are equally as watchable as the daytime ones.

Audio
There are separate English DD 5.1 and 2.0 soundtracks available, however with DVD player technology improving to down-mix six channels into two, then the latter becomes much less of a necessity these days. Since this movie is mainly dialogue driven, both mixes hold up well to the challenge.

Human Nature
This is mainly a front stage directed soundtrack with the surrounds only helping to fill in the holes beside your ears at key points in the film. The subwoofer also plays a part in the sparse moments of music and electric shocks to subtly fill out the lower end once in a while. It is a pretty unremarkable soundtrack to be sure, but one that does enough to satisfy its limited audience. There are no subtitles present in the main feature.

Extras
Being the bare-bones DVD that this movie deserves, there are some little bits tacked onto it that may help explain what everyone was thinking when they signed on the dotted line for its production.

First there is a rather meatless making-of featurette (6 mins), which basically recycles the interviews already present on this disc. That said, there are five interviews (19 mins) with the four stars and director Michael Gondry where they discuss what direction this movie was taking (if any). Finally, the theatrical trailer shows why it isn't always in the studio's best interest to reveal too much about the movie itself (but it sure helps the audience in deciding whether or not to even bother with it).

Human Nature
Overall
Admittedly, the top-line cast of actors help to boost this somewhat dubious screenplay with some rather effective storytelling and imagery in places. But even though some viewers might find Human Nature as deeply moving and multi-layered as The Matrix sequels purport to be, it is this creative complexity that will alienate most of us who can't decide whether we are watching Gattaca or The Three Stooges.

The cover of this DVD pretty much sums up the duality of a serious message being delivered via a comedic medium, but personally this movie didn't strike me of having either of these to offer. Only you can decide whether it is worth your time to be morally educated, whilst debating whether or not to laugh at the equally deep and meaningful conundrums between primitive instinct and rational reasoning. Give this disc a rental at least to see whether you would like to have your ninety minutes back or not.


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