The ever so topical notion of bio-terrorists coming to the aid of a faceless President’s War on Sex is a premise with legs, arms and, well, other limbs that could have been the funniest send-up in “dickades.” In Max Mitchell’s uneven but fanciful production, the scientists Richard Holbrook (Perren Hedderson with locks-a-plenty and an engaging style) and Ed Picante (Morse Bicknell delightfully switches sides with straight abandon) come up with “Love Potion No. 4708.” It was initially designed to eliminate the sex drive in unmarried youth (making unwanted pregnancies and abortions relics from the past) with its antidote given only to Christian couples after being properly married. But the formula didn’t work as planned: instead of drying up libido, it—at times instantaneously; at times not: a noticeable plot-point deficiency—merely reversed sexual orientation in whomever got a whiff of its life-altering fumes.
It’s the stuff of grand comedy and zinging satire: if only the momentum of the film’s first 30 minutes could have been bottled and re-injected into the remainder.
With a bible thumper in the White House (Bruce Harders has just the right tone and takes his hilarious foot-gear transformations in stride) who’ll stop at nothing to reward the religious right that put him there, the political stage is set for much Republican bashing. The running gag (literally across the screen) of Fax News broadcasts (ably anchored by Mike Miller as Dan Lafferty) provides split-second social commentary and quick-fire laughs (e.g., Baghdad to be renamed Bushdad; Iran quits its nuclear program to redo Tehran) that work well in the early going but soon become tired, predictable and rife with cliché (e.g., “I can’t even think straight”).
The wives of the white-coat creators start off their contribution to these affairs of state by banging outside of wedlock. But once they too succumb to the effects of the orientation-switching ether, Lisa Picante (Jiji Hise) and Joan Holbrook (Courtney Bell) voraciously explore the delights of nude yoga and delectable muff diving (“We should have tried this sooner”) even as their suddenly gay husbands contemplate recreating the campfire scene from Brokeback Mountain.
Mitchell has a wonderful gift for turning the absurd into hard-hitting social commentary and genuine comedy, but would benefit from employing a more focussed approach to his zany narrative (at times the pace slows with the desire for just one more joke and the scattergun scene-shifts occasionally lose their drive) in order to let the momentum build, rise and climax—just like exceptional sex.
Director of photography John K.D. Graham has done a fine job of capturing the wildly diverse images and settings (from the cockpit of a bumpy pilot’s lesson through to a spectacular car explosion). Special kudos also must go to designers Dominic D’Angelo, Katie Mehrer and prop wizard Dave Partch for their combined effectiveness in visually reinforcing the many transformations from confirmed heterosexuals to dizzy queers with elegance, pizzazz, accessories and leather as required.
Anyone who’s ever fantasized about what life might be like on the “other side” (in both directions) should see this film; everyone leaving the theatre will most certainly come out humming “Love Is the Antidote” (written by David Zippel and Marc Chait). JWR