Love Potion No. 9 (1992)
Love Potion No. 9 (1992)

Genre: Romantic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Release Date: November 13th, 1992 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Dale Launer Actors: Tate Donovan, Sandra Bullock, Mary Mara, Dale Midkiff, Anne Bancroft, Rebecca Staab




s part of a tradition of going out and doing something fun, Paul Matthews (Tate Donovan) and his friends visit a gypsy palm reader on 34th and Vine. The old woman (Anne Bancroft) informs Paul that she sees no female companions in his future – whatsoever. It’s very depressing stuff, but fortunately, she has a powerful formula called Love Potion No. 8, which, when heavily diluted and sipped, will cause women to find him fascinating.

He claims to have no girl troubles, but Paul is a boring biochemist. When bribed by his friends at a bar to approach an attractive woman, it’s made abundantly clear that he has no game. As consolation, his pals buy him a prostitute, but he only manages to talk with her briefly instead of boosting his libido. Meanwhile, coworker and comparative psychobiologist Diane Farrow (Sandra Bullock), who conducts tests on chimpanzees, similarly has no love life. She’s used by an uncaring friend for sex, but leads a lonely existence in her bleak apartment.

The two work at Burkons Corporation, a research company, where Paul decides to analyze Love Potion No. 8 after he spies his cat, having lapped a bit of the philter when it mixed with milk, getting some amorous attention from the entire neighborhood of felines. There is, of course, a scientific explanation, involving vocal cords and the hairs in the inner ear. But the fact is, it works to attract the opposite sex, as well as inspire aggression in the same sex, and it only has a four-hour span of effectiveness.

This “potentially dangerous drug” requires some experimentation. Since Diane and Paul are responsible, prudent individuals, they subject themselves to the trials. “How do I know you haven’t been doing some unspeakably sordid things?” Paul asks Diane, which is exactly what the audience will be wondering. The filmmakers don’t tread lightly with the idea that the elixir can be used to simply have sex with hordes of women (or men), or for revenge on the men and women that previously scorned the nerdy scientists. This gives way to a transformation for Diane, who was made up to be as frumpy looking as possible; she gets quite the makeover, begging the question: “Does she really need the tonic in the first place?”

The predicament comes when other people discover the secret of Love Potion No. 8, and use it against Paul and Diane. It’s a fair comeuppance and an interesting idea to retaliate against the protagonists. Unfortunately, for each creative, humorous idea, there are also ineffective elements:  a multi-day, multi-date montage, unnecessary narration, and a few notions that are a touch severe for a breezy romantic comedy. Still, it’s not terrible for a film inspired by the popular song by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10