by Jack Sommersby
This direct-to-video sex comedy miraculously gets most everything right.Sexual Chemistry takes a tantalizing story premise and pretty much goes all the way with it, which isn't exactly faint praise considering the majority of films I see that ride the surface of a premise rather than developing it. Remember how psyched out we as audiences were back in 1996 after seeing the previews to Ron Howard's Ransom, for instance? Mel Gibson, the father of a kidnapped son, going on national tv and offering a two-million-dollar bounty for the capture or murder of the captors revved us up into quite a frenzy, only to discover, however, that, instead of witnessing the potentially joyous sight of thousands, maybe millions, of New Yorkers madly combing about the city for them, screenwriter Richard Price pretty much abandoned it, favoring instead to conclude the plot through standard-issue chase scenes.
"An Imaginative and Winning Sex Comedy!"
With the highly agreeable sex comedy Sexual Chemistry, what you're promised is refreshingly and pleasurably delivered upon. Basically, the story centers on a goofy scientist named Robert (played by Jeff Xander) who's so hopelessly infantile he keeps an assortment of toys around his office and a Slinky in his lab coat. Well, he winds up drinking an experimental potion designed to increase sexual drive in both males and females. His employer's trying to edge out a current drug on the market called Viagro (subtle, huh?) and is offering up the top executive slot in the company to the scientist who whips up the best solution, which propels Robert to skip standard lab tests and blindly take his own sample. The result? It winds up destroying something referred to as his "hormonal magnetic force", causing him to transform back and forth into a beautiful woman (Stephanie LaFleur) whenever he gets aroused. Of course, this does present a wee bit of a problem in both his professional and social life. Being that the lab is a top-secret government-funded operation, the unexpected and unauthorized appearances of Heidi (Robert claims to be his own sister) draw disapproval. And when Robert's fiancee starts going down on him, all he can do is pray that a change doesn't come on (which, of course, it eventually does). With the help of his spunky best friend, Zelda (Raisa Ivanic), he tries to cook up a workable potion to get that sought-after position. In addition, the womanizing Robert learns to become a better, more sensitive person, while also growing receptive of Zelda's true feelings for him.
From the very first sequence, the filmmakers behind Sexual Chemistry let you know that sophomoric humor is far from below them, and they make absolutely no qualms about it. For instance, when Robert is denied orgasm after some hot-and-heavy in-and-out by his fiancee, the scene cuts to the kitchen, where some tube-shaped automated gadget starts shooting white cream into a hot cup of coffee! There's also a talking bedside alarm clock with an Elizabeth Hurley-sounding voice that's insistently venomous towards its master ("Robert, get your pancakes to the griddle!"). So we shouldn't be too surprised in witnessing Robert, right after his first transformation, making an immediate dash to the ladies room to unbutton his shirt, loosen his trousers, and caress himself all over ("This feels so good I might never have to leave the house!"). Now, while Jeff Xander's acting is so atrocious that he makes Flash Gordon's Sam Jones seem like Nicholson by comparison, Stephanie LaFleur isn't just busty and drop-dead gorgeous, but a zingy, freewheeling comedienne as well. True, Ellen Barkin contributed a well-calibrated performance in a similar role in Blake Edwards' Switch twelve years ago, but LaFleur is allowed to really go all-out here, throwing herself into any given situation with a juicy and uninhibited aplomb that perks up the energy level and helps make up for Xander's blandness. She isn't afraid of going totally nude and touching and exploring herself several times over, for (duh!) this is exactly what most men would insistently do if such a grand opportunity were afforded. It fits the character, and, of course, it follows through on the central premise.
By the way, you want nudity? Sexual Chemistry serves that up -- and then some! Five major sex scenes to be had here, in addition to LaFleur's constant disrobings, which tallies up to a very satisfactory quotient. A wide variety of skin is on display: an overly tan B-cup shaved blonde; a perfectly tan D-cup shaved brunette; dirty-blonde pale C-cup and unshaven LaFleur; and a couple of other nondescripts. While the sex simulations aren't all that great, the abundance of nudity, the variety of sexual positions, the campy dialogue accompanying them ("... trying to bring the Love Boat into the harbor."), and the tireless energy exerted by the performers mostly overrides this. Big debit, however: An assortment of dreadful songs by someone named Todd Schroeder is played over the in-and-out action, with one in particular a standout in its irrefutable dreadfulness:
"It's so hard for Cupid,
To finish the shot,
When the way isn't clear,"
"For Him never finds,
The Path you should take,
If it's clouded with fear"
"But if we believe,
Then we'll let love try.
Cupid can aim,
And let the arrows fly."
"And together we'll find,
With two hearts combined,
Love will lead us home."
(Uh, yeah. Even the immortal Jim Morrison couldn't have made this even the least bit tolerable.)
And, as some of you may have grasped by now, even though it's LaFleur the actress who does a sex scene with a male actor, according to the story's inner logic, it's also the male character of Robert who engages in it. Now, here's the test: Do the filmmakers glide over this obstacle and, in the process, insult the audience as if our IQ is lower than a shoe size? Hell, no -- they dive right into it! When a male worker starts coming onto Heidi in her office and starts do go down on her, Heidi as Robert instinctively puts up a tad of resistance but soon relents almost immediately, citing aloud the prevailing motivating reason, "How often does a guy get a chance to check out another man's rack?" (which, I guess, is a myopic referral to a guy who wants only to put up the pretense of harboring absolutely no homosexual urges), and LaFleur nails the scene home by screaming at the top of her lungs throughout, "Woman power! Woman power!".
Sexual Chemistry is such peppy and buoyant fun for much of the time that it seems almost finicky to point out a couple of shortcomings. Like the fact that the office scenes where Robert has to sneak his way around unnoticed after a transformation and Heidi's on-the-hotspot explanations had the potential for inspired slapstick but are lamely staged and clumsily edited. (Director Mike Sedans' work, though, is, while amateurish, largely unobtrusive.) Also, 'convenient thinking' obviously figured into things in that the important sex scene between Zelda and Robert is exactly that -- between Zelda and Robert, and not Heidi (though it's no less a cop-out than the one in 1990's Ghost, where, for box-office sake, Demi Moore made love with Patrick Swayze but should have been swapping spit with the physical persona of Whoopi Goldberg). But these are only minor quibbles. Considering all of the surprises and twists and turns of the plotting, the batting average here for living up to the story potential is fairly high. And while I can't guarantee that Sexual Chemistry is for everyone, I will readily attest that it's funny, sexy, chock-full of beautiful bods, and, instead of functioning merely as a series of sex scenes, boasts a reasonably persuasive sense of organic order. A good return on a $.99 video rental, I'd say.It's quite an accomplishment in that in between the sex and nudity you're not bored or fast-forwarding to the "good stuff".
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originally posted: 03/04/03 14:23:09