Human Nature, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's follow-up to Being John Malkovich, doesn't match the earth-shattering mix of originality, hilarity, and insight of his debut film, but it comes closer than most movies. It's an hour-and-a-half of solid entertainment. Kaufman shows signs of a unique genius that could only have developed during countless hours spent watching television. Visually inventive French music video and commercial director Michel Gondry makes his feature debut with Human Nature. Unlike Spike Jonze, who directed Malkovich, and was one of the producers here, Gondry sometimes struggles to find the right tone. The palette occasionally seems too bright and cheery, and some of the characters too oblivious to the absurdity of their situations. The cast is mostly terrific, however, especially Australian actor Miranda Otto as Gabrielle, the enigmatic lab assistant with the French accent, and Rhys Ifans as Puff, whose father was a madman who dropped out of society after JFK's assassination, and raised Puff as an ape. Ifans may not have deserved all the attention he got for his relatively simple goofball role in Notting Hill. But here, he sinks his comedic chops into what is basically the role of a lifetime. Like much in the film, Puff is simultaneously ludicrous and charming, and there aren't many actors who could play the character with such physical and verbal grace. The film alternates self-conscious dopiness, as in Puff's impassioned testimony before Congress, with an almost lyrical absurdity, as in Lila's (Patricia Arquette) sudden burst into song. Meanwhile, Human Nature raises thought-provoking points about the lengths people go to in order to be accepted. It also manages to generate a great deal of sympathy for its weird, misbehaving characters, much as Being John Malkovich did, and that in itself is quite an accomplishment.
by Josh Ralske review