Sandra Bullock and Tate Donovan star in LOVE POTION NO. 9, directed by Dale Launer for 20th Century Fox.

Love Potion No. 9 (1992, Dale Launer)

I wonder if there’s not a better version of Love Potion No. 9 out there somewhere. The film only runs ninety minutes and feels anorexic. Launer’s writing–even his narration for Tate Donovan–has these moments of incredible strength. It’s so strong, in fact, it and Donovan make Love Potion a fine diversion.

Well, those aspects and Mary Mara’s repugnant call girl who is hilarious in a wicked stepsister sort of way.

Launer’s script has its issues–characters appear and disappear on a whim, as the film decides to focus on Donovan almost exclusively about halfway through. Before, it’s fairly evenly distributed between he and Sandra Bullock. Bullock is the film’s biggest problem. She’s absolutely awful in the second half, when she’s talking anyway. She has this whole sequence where she’s pretending to be mute so no man falls in love with her (the titular love potion affects the vocal cords) and she’s rather charming. Of course, it’s the exact same performance she’s been giving in the twenty years since this film.

But once she does start talking, her character becomes third tier in the story and Launer can’t figure out how to write the scenes. In the first half, he’s got a solid concept. In the second, he’s got a good performance from Donovan and Mara.

It’s really shouldn’t be enough… but it succeeds.

The good memories (from the first half) of Dylan Baker and Rebecca Staab go a long way.

And having Anne Bancroft around never hurt anyone.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written, produced and directed by Dale Launer; director of photography, William Wages; edited by Suzanne Pettit; music by Jed Leiber; production designer, Linda Pearl; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Tate Donovan (Paul Matthews), Sandra Bullock (Diane Farrow), Mary Mara (Marisa), Dale Midkiff (Gary Logan), Hillary B. Smith (Sally), Anne Bancroft (Madame Ruth), Dylan Baker (Prince Geoffrey), Blake Clark (Motorcycle Cop), Bruce McCarty (Jeff), Rebecca Staab (Cheryl) and Adrian Paul (Enrico Pazzoli).


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