A comic take on the maxim "Be careful what you wish for," "The Sex Monster" is a cheesy, obvious farce that is funnier than it has any right to be. Nudity-free and quaintly chaste, this is an unsophisticated situation comedy about a man who lives to rue the day he talked his wife into bringing new women into their bedroom for three-ways.

A comic take on the maxim “Be careful what you wish for,” “The Sex Monster” is a cheesy, obvious farce that is funnier than it has any right to be. Nudity-free and quaintly chaste, this is an unsophisticated situation comedy about a man who lives to rue the day he talked his wife into bringing new women into their bedroom for three-ways. The comic spectacle of the husband’s steadily escalating exasperation and spirited performances by Mariel Hemingway and Mike Binder in unlikely circumstances make this a low-brow audience pleaser, provided no expectations are involved. But it’s hard to discern much of a market for this Trimark release, as lack of marquee names and production values brings it up short theatrically, and its tameness makes it excessively mild-mannered and non-titillating by cable and vid standards.

Playing a man who could easily be taken for the long-lost neurotic brother of Woody Allen or Henry Jaglom, writer-director Binder is Marty Barnes, a constantly jabbering L.A. building contractor who keeps insisting to his shiksa goddess wife, Laura (Mariel Hemingway), how much more exciting their sex life would be with a new participant in the mix. With a farcical rectal exam and some funny fantasy sequences indicating the goofy tone of things to come, the couple finally take the plunge, and while Marty bows out from exhaustion early on, Laura and her partner keep at it as her husband impatiently listens in and waits.

When the anxious Marty presses his wife for details, she blandly reports, “It was very educational,” but the truth soon comes out, as Laura becomes a sexual tigress, bluntly propositioning women (including Marty’s hot secretary) and going at it endlessly in what becomes the film’s main running gag. She’s perfectly willing to have Marty join in, but, in the wake of Laura’s high-spirited voraciousness, he quickly comes to feel like a useless bystander — after all, he says, she does have “home court advantage” when it comes to knowing what a woman wants.

In typical bedroom-farce fashion, things spin out of control in the final act, as Laura’s predatory ways begin interfering with Marty’s business life, and matters are wisely brought to a quick conclusion. It’s strictly a superficial, light-hearted romp, with sex action that’s mostly heard rather than seen, and few serious consequences entertained. But Hemingway’s unsalacious, uncomplicated, winning personality takes any onus off of Laura’s obsession, and the self-deprecating light into which Binder places Marty’s neuroses makes him palatable.

Aside from some jaunty musical accompaniment, production values are pretty low-end.

The Sex Monster

Production

A Trimark release of a Sun-Lite Pictures presentation. Produced by Jack Binder, Scott Stephens. Executive producers, Peter Savarino, Jim Harbaugh, Marc Frydman. Directed, written by Mike Binder.

With

Laura Barnes - Mariel Hemingway Marty Barnes - Mike Binder Didi - Renee Humphrey Billy - Taylor Nichols Diva - Missy Crider Murphy - Stephen Baldwin
Camera (FotoKem color), Keith Smith; editor, Lee Grubin; music supervisor, Dodi Baske; production designer, Katie Lipsitt; set decorator, Rosie Tupta; costume designer, Caroline B. Marx; sound (Dolby), William Jenkins; associate producers, Sharon Bialy, Beth M. Jelin; assistant director, Lynn d'Angona; second unit camera, Mark Peterson; casting, Bialy. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 15, 1999. Running time: 97 MIN.
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