Writer-director Jeff Abugov's feature debut, "The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human," has a great premise. Pic is meant to be a Discovery Channel--style documentary chronicling the strange rituals surrounding the sexual dance among men and women, and the result is often funny and occasionally inspired.

Writer-director Jeff Abugov’s feature debut, “The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human,” has a great premise. Pic is meant to be a Discovery Channel–style documentary chronicling the strange rituals surrounding the sexual dance among men and women, and the result is often funny and occasionally inspired. But the mockumentary, essentially a one-joke skit, eventually runs out of steam. “Mating Habits” is more suited to the small screen.

Billy (Mackenzie Astin) and Jenny (Carmen Electra) first lay eyes on each other at an L.A. nightclub, where the fairly nerdy Billy makes a fool of himself when they chat. Despite this, curvaceous Jenny gives him her phone number — which he promptly loses. Eventually they get together for a date, and begin running through the traditional mating trajectory, including latenight star-gazing in the Hollywood Hills, meeting dysfunctional parents, groping on the couch and, eventually, having sex.

There are hilarious moments reminiscent of early Woody Allen, notably a recurring sequence in which sprinters on a track are used as a metaphor for the movement of sperm during lovemaking. The couple tries various forms of contraception, but she ends up pregnant, which puts a big strain on their relationship.

One of the strong points here is David Hyde Pierce’s narration, which contains most of the funniest lines and is delivered in just the right crisp, droll style by the “Frasier” thesp. Weak link is the bland perfs by Astin and Electra. In the end, the nifty idea outlives its welcome, in part because Abugov is not able to infuse the central relationship with onscreen chemistry or intrigue, and the script’s wittiness is dampened by lack of strong, believable characters. Soundtrack makes use of cheesy tropical music that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Discovery Channel nature docu.

The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human

Production

An Earthbound Human Prods. production. (International sales: Columbia TriStar Home Video, Los Angeles.) Produced by Larry Estes. Co-producer, Victor Ho. Directed, written by Jeff Abugov.

Crew

Camera (color), Michael K. Bucher; editor, Stephen Myers; music, Michael McCarty; production designer, Helen Harwell; costumes, Kristin M. Burke; associate producer, Sam Irvin. Reviewed at World Film Festival, Montreal (World Cinema), Sept. 3, 1999. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Billy Waterston - Mackenzie Astin
Jenny Smith - Carmen Electra
Narrator - David Hyde Pierce
With: Markus Redmond, Lucy Liu, Lisa Rotondi, Sharon Wyatt, Jack Kehler, Leo Rossi.
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