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Overall Rating

Awesome: 29.03%
Worth A Look38.71%
Average: 22.58%
Pretty Bad: 6.45%
Total Crap: 3.23%

1 review, 25 user ratings

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Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex...But Were Afraid to Ask
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by The Ultimate Dancing Machine

"Not as good as 'Annie Hall,' but better than 7th grade sex-ed"
3 stars

I remember finding a copy of this book in my parents’ house when I was but a wee lad, and though I didn’t even know the questions I was supposed to be afraid of, I can distinctly recall the air of giggly hedonism that came off the pages. The book taught me, for example, that prostitutes loved their work; it was fun; they were liberated people, after all. (I learned much later what a “prostitute” was.) It’s just as well that precocious little me never saw the film adaptation; the sight of Woody Allen fleeing a giant rampaging breast might have done ungodly things to my budding constitution.

Actually, Sex/Afraid (as we’ll call it) doesn’t adapt its source material so much as parody it mercilessly over the course of seven thematically related segments, each prefaced by a title-card query (e.g., “Do Aphrodisiacs Work?”) that the ensuing story purports to dramatize. As this is early Allen, jokes take precedence over character, and this approach forms both the strength and the weakness of Sex/Afraid. Much like the Zucker brothers after him, Allen punches in funny lines wherever he can fit them, often apropos of absolutely nothing (“TB or not TB, that is congestion”). But the jokes tend to shoot off into space without effect. They’re not generated by the material, only grafted onto it haphazardly. This gives Sex/Afraid a sprightly, freewheeling flavor—there’s no telling what’ll happen next—but Allen’s satirical thrusts often have little behind them.

The first bit, which casts Allen as a court jester in medieval times, finds Allen leaning on cheap “funny talk” jokes that wouldn’t have made it into Black Knight (though I’d lay money Mel Brooks stole the chastity belt gag for Robin Hood: Men in Tights). Good idea, lame execution; Allen’s imagination exceeds his ability to shape it effectively. You see the same thing again in the “What’s My Perversion?” game-show skit, which stops being funny after the first minute, and in a brief segment with a hapless transvestite that goes nowhere in particular.

The parts that succeed do so because Allen trusts his material enough to stop stretching for every joke within reach. The best segment (“What is Sodomy?”) features Gene Wilder as a doctor who falls in love with a sheep, rapidly succumbing to “unnatural” passions in the process. You’ve never seen Wilder’s burned-out, droopy-eyed visage put to better use. He underplays his role perfectly, all spacey incomprehension as he tries to explain his predicament to his wife (“I can explain! We’re just friends!”). It works because it feels unforced—it effortlessly touches on the chintzy absurdity of ‘70s.

Almost as funny is the final sequence, set inside the heavily manned “Mission Control” of a man about to get laid. Featuring Allen as a parachute-jumping sperm—and Burt Reynolds, making a rare appearance in a decent movie—it’s clever AND hilarious, a nifty blending of social commentary and rapid-fire comedy. Even here, though, the sketch fades out on an unsatisfyingly minor note, as do most of the segments in Sex/Afraid. It’s clear that Allen was still learning a few things about dramatic rhythm and suchlike, but even though Sex/Afraid’s rickety scaffolding threatens to topple over at any moment, he keeps it—ahmmm—erect with pure ingenuity. It’s a hit-or-miss affair—but the hits are worth the wait.

That’s not Everything, but it’s Something.

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originally posted: 06/19/02 13:03:27
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User Comments

6/01/12 matthew thompson Dalldorf Everything I know about the subject I learned from this movie! 5 stars
1/07/12 scott I wan to measure your respiration when they gang bang you. 5 stars
7/04/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess They should have shown thi sto us during sex-ed 4 stars
3/07/08 SamanthaPayntr i learned a lot from this, Gene Wilder is sooo funny! 4 stars
3/01/08 MP Bartley Moments of sublime genius here. 4 stars
9/10/07 John Aster Habig Better than "Meaning Of Life" and "History of The World" 4 stars
6/06/07 David Pollastrini better than the book! 4 stars
7/19/06 Sandy + Stephanie (twins) engaged 4 stars
4/26/05 Indrid Cold Actually pretty funny considering it's 30 years old. The Gene Wilder bit is hilarious. 4 stars
8/30/04 DM I like to expose myself on subways. 4 stars
1/14/04 Sodomina This is a room fullof boyscouts. I want to measure your respiration when they gang bang you 5 stars
11/15/03 Mike Goddammit who flashed the scared expresion!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 stars
10/19/03 natasha_theobald some parts are so hilarious that the not funny parts are even worse by comparison 3 stars
5/16/03 mr. Pink A misfire from Allen. 2 stars
1/20/03 Andrew Callaway Exactly what you should expect. 5 stars
9/30/02 Charles Tatum Funny, watch out for giant tits! 4 stars
6/19/02 The Bomb 69 Funny 4 stars
1/12/02 Monster W. Kung Woody Allen at his most stupid, yet hilarious. 4 stars
1/02/02 Andrew Carden Yeah, The Next Time I Think A Man Liking A Goat Is Cute, I'll Tell Ya. 1 stars
8/07/01 E-Funk Perfect blend of comedy from all over the spectrum...Woody shines in every moment. 5 stars
10/30/00 YOUR Movie Expert A Guy Making Out with Rye Bread, a giant boob, and talking sperm: Very, very funny. 5 stars
10/11/99 Weird Andy "This man is making love to a large rye bread..." Much laughter. 5 stars
7/04/99 Vick Di Brecci A Woody Allen picture that lands between 1969 and 1980 5 stars
6/16/99 David Bottom line: it's hilarious! Not Woody's best, but easily his raunchiest. 5 stars
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  02-Feb-1973 (MA)

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