Animal Behavior is another example of bait-and-switch home video. You see the name of a favorite movie star on the videocassette box. You rent the movie. You wonder what happened to the star.
The bait for Animal Behavior is Holly Hunter. The switch is a predictable movie that really stars Karen Allen and Armand Assante. Yes, Holly Hunter is in the movie, which was shot in 1985 (before Broadcast News made her a star) and released in 1989. But her cameo doesn’t deserve star billing. And it doesn’t make this drab ”comedy” any more watchable.
Assante is a hunky cellist who arrives at Lamont University, a large school located ”out West” somewhere. He’s a sensitive composer-in-residence who needs time to write. Instead he spends all his time helping out a dorky psychiatry prof (Allen), who’s doing sign-language research with a chimp. He’s smitten by her; she’s smitten by the ape. She finally warms up, then mistakenly assumes he’s married. You know how this turns out.
The movie gets its ”suspense” from the threat of Allen losing the funding for her research. But then her chimp makes friends with the non-speaking little girl who lives next door to Assante. The girl apes the ape and then everything turns out just as you expected.
The mother of the girl, by the way, is played by Hunter. At the end of the movie, in her big scene, she gets to hug the little girl and cry. You’ll cry, too, if you sit all the way through Animal Behavior waiting for something interesting to happen.