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Pretty Bad75%
Total Crap: 12.5%

1 review, 2 user ratings

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Sex and Death 101
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by brianorndorf

"A sexy comedy without sexy and comedy"
2 stars

Daniel Waters (“Happy Campers”) possesses such an impressive wit, harboring a real gift for taking obscenely dark moments of comedy and twisting them to even more delightful and disturbing ends. The first example of his genius is found in the 1989 classic teen film, “Heathers.” The last example of his glorious writing? “Heathers.” “Sex and Death 101” is another cruel reminder that Waters’s creative antennae were irrevocably bent sometime during the last 20 years.

Roderick Blank (Simon Baker) is a fast food magnate on the verge of settling down and starting a family. Dropping into his inbox is a mysterious e-mail listing the names of every lover from the past, and even those in his future. Enjoying this gift from the winds of fate, Roderick goes on a sexual tear (with Sophie Monk, Natassia Malthe, and Frances Fisher), working the promise of the list to his satisfaction. On the other side of town is Death Nell (Winona Ryder), a disguised enchantress who drugs sexually abusive men into comas, building quite a large female fanbase along the way. When Roderick spies Nell’s name at the end of his list, the playboy goes into panic mode, requesting help from the agents of chance (Robert Wisdom, Patton Oswalt, and Tanc Sade) to save him from the inevitable.

“Sex and Death 101” is a riff on the demands of fate, the dangers of toying with the mechanics of love, and pursues existential ideas on relationships and personal psychological inventory. It’s also a black comedy, which happens to be Waters’s forte. However, “Death” severely belly flops when diving into polarizing comedic modes, trying to extract light moments from Roderick’s dilemma while slowly nudging the edgy content (Roderick considers necrophilia and castration to break the curse) to maintain uneasy tremors in the story. A few moments do successfully break the monotony, but the overall mood of “Death” is sluggish and uncomfortably unfunny.

While Waters dutifully attempts to keep his picture firing on all cylinders, his grand mistake was hiring Simon Baker to anchor the movie. Baker is handsome enough and has a classic movie star glint in his eye, but he’s a stiff here, continually bumbling the comedy, revealing his inexperience with selling jokes. The supporting cast members (including a lively Mindy Cohn as Roderick’s secretary) are much more at ease with the curves of the screenplay, steamrolling over the blank Baker in nearly every scene. His unappealing performance weighs down the entire production, robbing the picture of needed levity, sensuality, and personality.

Brevity is also in limited supply in “Death,” with Waters dragging the story out to two very protracted hours. Roderick’s chess game with fate is a fascinating starting point for the feature, yet Waters tends to draw scenes out, afraid to trim the large pockets of fat for fear of losing crucial fragments of nuance and motivation. “Death” could’ve easily lost 30 minutes of superfluous cock-happy hijinks and redundant storytelling, leaving a leaner, gleefully more effective dark comedy to enjoy.

It’s easy to perceive that “Sex and Death 101” was probably a vivid page-turner in screenplay form, and the concept is unique enough to keep interest high for the film’s first act. With the combo of Baker’s sleepy performance and Waters’s indulgence, the film is a chore to finish, lumbering to an oddly gentle conclusion assuredly more effective had the editing process been more judicious.

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originally posted: 07/04/08 13:45:51
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2007 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2007 series, click here.

User Comments

1/20/11 gc No it's definately horrible 1 stars
3/26/09 Anonymous. not horrible but was hoping it would be better..! 3 stars
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  04-Apr-2008 (R)
  DVD: 01-Jul-2008



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Daniel Waters

Written by
  Daniel Waters

  Simon Baker
  Winona Ryder
  Patton Oswalt

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