Judge Clark Douglas' prom date was a cardboard cutout of Miss America.
Love's all about finding the right combination.
Michael (Nicholas Braun, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Matty (Hunter Cope) have been best friends since early childhood. At long last, they're about to graduate from high school, and they've each made a vow to lose their virginity before the year is out. One night, Matty makes a stunning confession: he's gay. Michael does his best to accept this surprising news, but manages to express his acceptance in a variety of unusual and semi-inappropriate ways. After things begin to return to normal, the two continue their quest to lose their virginity. Alas, there are plenty of unexpected roadblocks along the way to that goal.
The most ambitious thing about Date and Switch is how ordinary it wants to be. Sure, a large portion of the movie revolves around Matty coming to terms with his sexuality (and Michael coming to terms with Matty's sexuality, for that matter), but the flick clearly wants to be regarded as just another fun, quirky, mainstream "hey, let's pop our cherries!" rom-com rather than something designed to make the rounds on the gay film festival circuit. That's a reasonably noble goal, and if the entirety of Date and Switch were as good as its best moments, the film might have been something kind of special. Alas, genuinely entertaining, thoughtful scenes are forced to sit uncomfortably next to scenes which feel impossibly contrived and phony.
The biggest and most prominent problem is Michael, a remarkably dense character whose actions seem primarily motivated by the needs of the plot. Sure, the situation he's in has to be awkward, but the sort of bizarre behavior Matty's confession inspires is beyond ridiculous. In a bid to demonstrate his acceptance of Matty's sexuality, Michael organizes a trip to a gay nightclub (where both guys end up getting high and running around nude in a room full of bubbles). In another scene, Michael makes Matty a pot brownie and decorates it with penises and butts ("Because you like those now, right?"). The punchlines of these scenes might have been funny if the set-up weren't so horribly forced.
Even so, there's stuff to enjoy outside of the film's dopey central framework. When the characters aren't forced to act like dim-witted plot devices, the dialogue has a natural, witty, appealing quality which makes these characters feel instantly relatable. This is Hunter Cope's first feature film role, but it certainly shouldn't be his last—he has a relaxed charisma which goes a long way towards making Matty feel like a real person. Dakota Johnson (21 Jump Street) does stellar work as Matty's ex-girlfriend/Michael's potential girlfriend, turning a messy role into an interesting one. The film also gets a serious boost from some well-known supporting players: Nick Offerman, Gary Cole and Megan Mullaly get a lot of laughs playing colorful parental figures, and Aziz Ansari turns in a delightful cameo. When we're just hanging out with these folks, the movie works like a charm—I loved the awkward conversations Offerman shares with Braun, as a kind, understanding, tolerant father embarrasses his son in the most affectionate way possible. Too bad the whole thing starts crumbling every time the plot machinations kick back in.
Date and Switch (Blu-ray) receives a fine 1080p/2.35:1 transfer, but this isn't a particularly memorable flick on a visual level. It looks more or less like a standard low-budget rom-com, but the level of detail is fairly strong throughout. Darker scenes boast impressive shading, and flesh tones look perfectly natural. It's a solid, unremarkable image. The same goes for the DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track, which delivers the dialogue, music and sound design with simple, efficient clarity. There's nothing that will make you sit up and take notice, but that's as it should be. Supplements include an audio commentary with director Chris Nelson and writer Alan Yang, two brief featurettes ("The Making of Date and Switch" and "Prom: A Rite of Passage"), some deleted scenes and a digital copy.
Date and Switch is a good-natured, well-intentioned rom-com, but its gentle virtues and progressive mindset aren't enough to overcome the pesky cliches which so often plague this genre. The film has its pleasures, but they're spread a bit too thin.
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