Love Potion No. 9

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Probably the first film I remember seeing Sandra Bullock in was Speed. For others it was Demolition Man. I admit, I was a little behind on catching that one. But like most big actors, she had some earlier films that were nowhere near as successful as these more iconic movies. In Bullock’s case there was this little romantic comedy based on a few ideas from a 1959 pop song. Get ready for a dose of Love Potion No. 9.

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Our story begins with a young biochemist named Paul Matthews (Tate Donovan) who one night goes down to 34th and Vine (that’s from the song) to visit a gypsy called Madame Ruth (also from the song). The old woman (Anne Bancroft) reads his palm and sees that he’s quite pathetic in the romance department. So, she gives him a small bit of Love Potion No. 8, which Paul promptly discards when he gets home. However, his cat ends up getting into the garbage and the next thing we know a bunch of lovesick felines are paying his cat a visit.

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Being a scientist, Paul decides he needs to run experiments on this concoction. So, he and his colleague Diane (Bullock) start running tests. They realize that the potion somehow affects the vocal chords in a way that stimulates the hairs of the inner ear of members of the opposite sex…oh never mind, it makes people horny. Soon, Paul and Diane are both on the potion and end up with a long line of dates. Eventually, though, Paul and Diane learn that they are actually attracted to each other and don’t even need the potion. However, a slimeball named Gary (Dale Midkiff) gets his hands on some of the potion and lures Diane away. Now, Paul has to go get some of Love Potion No. 9 to try and reverse the effects.

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I can’t call this a good movie, but it’s one of those that still had a certain charm to it…at least for me. Much of that is thanks to Bullock, who pretty much steals the movie. It’s strange to see her in the beginning parts of the film where she is wearing thick rimmed glasses and sports Nutty Professor style teeth. Once she goes on the potion she gets a makeover, of course. With that she pretty much transforms into the Sandra Bullock who became America’s Sweetheart just a year or two after this movie was released. The scenes where she is not saying a word (so as not to affect anyone with the love potion) are really cute. She has this goofy smirk and a sweet but devilish look in her eyes. It’s hard not to be charmed by that.

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However, the rest of the movie is a pretty weak attempt at high concept. For one thing, the scientific explanation of how the potion works is ridiculous. We also get such embarrassingly bad sequences as a chimp, who is on the potion, trying to sexually assault another chimp before settling for just humping her cage. The human actors don’t do that great either. Tate Donovan falls quite a bit short of matching Bullock’s on-screen magnetism, we also get the usually reliable Dylan Baker doing a weird accent as one of Bullock’s suitors, Prince Geoffrey. It is nice seeing Anne Bancroft as Madame Ruth, but it’s pretty much a cameo. She’s not given much to do.

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I guess if you’re the type who finds Sandra Bullock to be sweet and funny in films like Miss Congeniality or While You Were Sleeping, you’ll find something to enjoy here. I admit to being suckered in by her quite often. Her performance at least makes Love Potion No. 9 enjoyable on a certain level, but even love potion no. 10 couldn’t make me love a lot of the rest of this lackluster comedy.

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