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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human (1999)

"Of all the creatures in the universe, none possess the mating ritual as complex, as perverse, as tragically beautiful, as the earthbound human."
- narrator (David Hyde Pierce)

Review By: Brian Calhoun   
Published: March 05, 2003

Stars: Mackenzie Astin, Carmen Electra, David Hyde Pierce
Other Stars: Lucy Liu, Markus Redmond, Lisa Rotondi, Sharon Wyatt
Director: Jeff Abugov

MPAA Rating: R for strong sexuality and language
Run Time: 01h:29m:54s
Release Date: January 07, 2003
UPC: 043396043862
Genre: romantic comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B+B+ C-

DVD Review

The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human could have easily been just another dull, clichéd comedy about relationships, but it is irresistibly charming thanks to its witty and humorous style. Most likely, anyone reading this review has at one time or another watched one of those Discovery Channel presentations on the mating habits of an obscure animal or insect. You know the ones I mean, where a stuffy narrator tries his best to sound vastly intellectual in describing these creatures' sexual tendencies. Earthbound Human takes the concept of these nature shows and applies it to the mating rituals of human beings.

The courtship of two modern day lovers, Billy (Mackenzie Astin) and Jenny (Carmen Electra), is hilariously narrated in documentary fashion by an unseen alien (David Hyde Pierce) from another galaxy. From their initial meeting in a nightclub to their first sexual encounter, the meeting of the in-laws, and Jenny's eventual unplanned pregnancy, the narrator documents the progression of their relationship, humorously struggling to find logical explanations for the bizarre dating habits of these human beings. Often, the humble narrator's theories are correct, other times they are wrong, and sometimes, he admits to having no rational explanation whatsoever for our bizarre mating rituals. With an arsenal of witty observations that include a "rational" explanation for oral sex and a tutorial on why it is a bad idea for the female to "emit an odor" in order to alert the male that she is ready to mate, the narrator's commentary is consistently fresh, entertaining, and almost always hysterical. While this documentary gimmick does become slightly tedious over the course of a 90-minute film, writer/director Jeff Abugov finds many ways to keep it entertaining throughout, its redundancy rarely detracting from the entertainment value.

Without an extremely gifted narrator, the one-note joke of Mating Habits would have backfired dreadfully. However, thanks to the voice-over talent of David Hyde Pierce, the technique is a wonderful success. Pierce's dry tone is exactly what one would expect to hear from the host of a nature documentary, yet he adds just the right comedic touch with his sardonic vocal inflections. Carmen Electra and Mackenzie Astin are also quite appealing in the leading roles, both of them boasting sexual charisma and comedic charm.

Even with its witty concept, Mating Habits could have been disastrous in the wrong hands. Fortunately, Jeff Abugov has intelligently crafted a compelling story with big laughs. While there are several jokes that fall flat, they are hardly worth mentioning in a film filled with one genuinely funny moment after another. Unlike so many "date movies" or "chick flicks", The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human is a unique romantic comedy that will appeal to both males and females alike.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: While not stunning, the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image transfer is impressive for a low budget film. Black level is perfect, but contrast appears a bit unbalanced and often causes dimly lit scenes to appear murky. The picture is clean and smooth, though somewhat soft and lacking in fine detail. Quite often the film looks aged, as if it were made in the 1970s, but the overall presentation is pleasing and free from glaring distractions.

Also available is the option to watch a 1:33.1 full-frame version.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio is above average for Dolby Surround. While most of the soundtrack is monaural, there are moments where the rear speakers come alive with dynamic intensity. Also impressive is the presence of bass during the opening nightclub sequence; the low end is tighter and stronger than I am accustomed to from the Dolby Surround format. David Hyde Pierce's voice over narration sounds fantastic with a robust yet natural characteristic. On the other hand, the location dialogue frequently sounds thin and occasionally a tad strident. While not terribly exciting, this soundtrack is perfectly suitable and commendable.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Japanese with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Charlie's Angels, My Best Friend's Wedding, The Sweetest Thing, New Best Friend
1 Feature/Episode commentary by writer/director Jeff Abugov
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: While not a breakthrough in the special features department, Mating Habits does feature a pleasant commentary track from writer/director Jeff Abugov. A first time feature-film director, Abugov does not provide one of the more professional or compelling commentaries I have heard, but his observations are interesting and insightful. He seems to be genuinely pleased with the film, and his enthusiasm makes for a worthwhile listen.

The only other inclusion is a section consisting of four trailers unrelated to Earthbound Human.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

Due to its obscurity, horrendous cover art, and an awkward title, it may seem as if The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human has three strikes against it. However, anyone who values my opinion is urged to give it a chance. I was pleasantly surprised by this clever comedy.

 


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