SUNDAY LOVERS (R) -- At the AMC Academy, K-B Cerberus, NTI Tysons Center, NTI White Flint and Showcase Bradlick.
Four versions of the same dirty joke are told in separate sequences of "Sunday Lovers." The joke, such as it is, is about a man's trying to get laid -- there is no other way to put it -- by the end of a weekend, with no longer than Saturday devoted to making the overtures and arrangements.
There is one problems that none of the four such men, who are of different nationalities, needs to overcome, and that is female resistance. All the women in the film -- except for two agreeable-looking wives, whose only function is to be called away for the weekend -- are eager to mate with strangers, and the men's looks, attitudes, social or marital status, age or even the fact that one is an inmate of a mental hospital, are not a consideration.
So why does it take a whole weekend and an apparently endless film?
It seems that none of these fantasy bunnies is quite perfect. Many are too enthusiastic. One has gotten fat, one analytical. Another balks at being asked to donate herself to a different man from the one she had accepted, to advance his business interests. And one expects to be paid, the only action in the film meant to be perceived as shocking.
Three of the four episodes are as blandly sleazy as the joke itself, but the fourth, devised and acted by Gene Wilder, is of a more serious order of tastelessness. Wilder devised the institutionalized character, who had attempted suicide after sexual failure, and then has embellished him with googly eyes and waving limbs to indicate ingenuousness, although the effect is to suggest imbecility.
While the other men's dream girls want isolated quickie encounters, the answer to his and his leering female psychiatrist's dreams is a woman with an overwhelming desire to administer sexual therapy. The question that hangs in the air during this segment is -- Will it work?
Now, that is a really dirty premise.