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Relax... It's Just Sex


Relax... It's Just Sex

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Writer-director P.J. Castellaneta's crass, spectacularly inane ensemble comedy, Relax... It's Just Sex, comes on like the gay cousin to last year's similarly titled (and similarly awful) Let's Talk About Sex. Both are eager to bust long-shattered sexual taboos and, failing that, both pad out their running time with painfully strident melodrama, including a scene in each that reaches a bizarre crescendo over cleaning products. Relax... sets up a colorful spectrum of stereotypical "alternative" characters—a fag-hag (Jennifer Tilly), a drama queen (Eddie Garcia), a militant black artist (T.C. Carson), gym guys (Gibbs Tolsdorf and Chris Cleveland) and lesbians of the lipstick (Serena Scott-Thomas and Cynda Williams) and butch (Lori Petty) variety—and, in the way it winds up propagating the myths it's trying to explode, the film can only be described as Soul Man-esque. Castellaneta dangles a number of issue-oriented plot threads, allowing for frank discussions on serious (HIV/AIDS) and not-so-serious (spit/swallow) topics to make their way through the roundelay. One genuinely shocking rape scene breaks the script's sitcom rhythms, but the fallout only temporarily sobers the proceedings. As the group's loud, sassy, freakishly narcissistic matriarch, Tilly sets the tone at a shrill pitch. Not even the best actors could shriek out dialogue like, "Talk is one thing... this is a ticket to the Middle East!" without embarrassment, but she provides most of the comic highlights in a film that earns more unintended laughs than actual ones.