Love Potion No. 9 (1992): RomanticComedy, Starring Tate Donovan and Sandra Bullock

Inspired by the 1959 hit song, Fox’s Love Potion No. 9 is a light-hearted romantic comedy that tries too hard to be cute.
Glib humor and emphasis on “feel good” values could put this amiable picture over with the dating crowd and twentysomething couples. But lack of real wit and comic vitality, absence of certified stars and sluggish pacing would make pic’s appeal less universal than it might have been. 
Grade: C
Love Potion No. 9

Theatrical release poster
Produced, written, and directed by Dale Launer, Love Potion Number 9 is a one-joke comedy. The joke is quite a good one, if not always funny. A variation on the Cinderella and ugly duckling mythic tales, pic’s leading characters are Paul Matthews (Tate Donovan), a shy biochemist who’s petrified of women, and Diane Farrow (Sandra Bullock), a repressed and lonely comparative pyscho-biologist. 
The plain and mousy Donovan and Bullock are very similar: they live in unadorned apartments, with a poster of Einstein on their walls, they listen to the same kind of music, etc. But their quiet and boring lives are turned upside-down, when they come into possession of a love potion, given to Donovan by a gypsy (the uncredited Anne Bancroft), which suddenly makes them physically attractive and sexually alluring. 
There are, of course, complications and disastrous brushes with the potion that the protagonists need to overcome before their blissful union. Bullock has a manipulative b.f. (Gary Logan), and she is also courted by a British prince (Dylan Baker) who, along with other men, falls under the spell of her magical charm.
Unfortunately, Launer’s writing is not as rude and energetic as it was in Ruthless People, and it lacks the clever one-liners that punctuated My Cousin Vinny, two of the scripter’s hit comedies. He builds scenes toward a big, explosive climax, which regrettably is lam and disappointing. Launer’s patter is too cutesy and reassuring, but it is pleasantly performed in a fresh, natural manner by both Donovan and Bullock.
Making his directorial debut, Launer exhibits a draggy, unmodulated style. He doesn’t play enough with the possibilities in the potentially hilarious situations and stereotypical characters. There is always a sense of a contrived, artificial construction, which contains some good pranks but they seldom form an intricate cluster, a crucial ingredient of good comedies. Launer’s orchestration of sight gags is too leisurely and deliberate and his pacing a bit monotonous.
Technical credits are adequate on what seems to be a modestly-budgeted effort. Linda Pearl’s production design and Thomas D’Arcy’s costumes are specifically detailed and deftly executed, underlying the progression of Donovan and Bullock’s lifestyles as reflected in their hairdo, makeup and wardrobe. But William Wages’ camera set-ups are too straightforward and uninventive, and Susan Pettit’s editing is inconsistent and not swift enough; many scenes run too long and they don’t flow together. 
A good-natured tale, Love Potion No. 9 embraces a hopeful, optimistic Capraesque belief: under the right circumstances, every ordinary human being can gain confidence and transform into a beautiful and resourceful individual. Blessed with a familiar high-concept, the mildly entertaining, one-layer comedy should strike a responsive chord with the very young and very romantic.
The movie was a commercial failure.
Paul Matthews………Tate Donovan
Diane Farrow……..Sandra Bullock
Marisa……………….Mary Mara
Gary………………Dale Midkiff
Sally………Hillary Bailey Smith
Prince Geoffrey……..Dylan Baker
Enrico Pazzoli………Adrian Paul
Motorcycle Cop………Blake Clark
Madame Ruth……….Anne Bancroft

Directed by Dale Launer
Produced by Dale Launer, Thomas M. Hammel
Written by Dale Launer
Music by Jed Leiber, Ennio Morricone
Cinematography William Wages
Edited by Suzanne Pettit
Distributed by 20th Century Fox

Release date: November 13, 1992

Box office $754,935