Judge Brett Cullum finds a gay comedy without a large costume budget.
Falling in love with the boy next door? That's a dream come true. Falling in love with his father too? That's just awkward.
Rob Williams and Guest House Films have become a cottage industry pumping out gay titles such as Make the Yuletide Gay and 3-Day Weekend. They seem to be cornering the market on likable queer comedies that feature extra amounts of skin, and The Men Next Door continues the tradition with a light, romantic, nearly-naked take on dating. The simple premise finds forty-year-old Doug (Eric Dean, Arizona Sky) caught between an older man (Michael Neckline, Subprime Children) and a younger man (Benjamin Lutz, Bite Marks). The twist? They are father and son. Thankfully Rob Williams is smart enough not to dwell on the lurid possibilities, and instead uses this scenario as a setup to meditate on what it means to age in the gay community while still trying to date. The Men Next Door also addresses the universal idea of how to figure out who is right for you despite all the other drama that goes on around any relationship.
The concept could never work without a sexy cast that can also carry the warmth needed to make an audience believe in the feelings under the farce. Eric Dean, Michael Neckline, and Benjamin Lutz all inhabit their characters with a casual ease that establishes the light tone of the film. Nobody goes too big or broad, and they keep the reactions in check to make it all feel right. And the fact that a good deal of them end up naked with a few doing full frontal? Well, that just probably adds to DVD sales. Thankfully not only are they pretty good actors, but apparently have gym and tanning memberships to boot.
The only things that bugged me about the film are nitpicks about the presentation of plot. The premise gets stretched thin with all the angst between the three leads only for the sake of sustaining the run time. There are probably one too many back and forth ping pongees as the three guys suss out who is right for who. And the idea that a thirty-year-old is too young for a forty-year-old and that a fifty-year-old is too old for a forty-year-old seems a touch backwards for even West Hollywood's most fabulous boys in the band. A more appropriate divide could have been achieved with a twenty year old dating a forty year old who is also involved with a sixty year old to truly make the generational divides more poignant. As the film stands, it's hard to tell much of an age difference between at least two of the three leads. But in the end this is a light sex comedy, so analyzing it too deeply isn't going to get a critic far.
The DVD is a nice package, which includes a crisp, clean transfer and plenty of extras. There is a director's commentary where the director is joined by the leads in the cast. They drink wine and talk freely about the production in a casual, friendly way with plenty of compliments all around the table. There is also a nice making-of featurette that takes you on set with everybody, including cast and crew. Also included are two cut scenes and a brief blooper reel.
The Men Next Door treads into the romantic lives of gay forty and fifty-year-olds as they mingle and merge into family and the younger generation. It takes a lurid plot device of dating a father and son, but uses it wisely to explore how people of all ages connect romantically. Don't expect things to get too deep though, because at the heart it is a gay romantic comedy with a lot of sex to keep it interesting. Whenever the film is in danger of getting too serious somebody shows up starkers. The Men Next Door apparently ruminate on their dramatic dating problems while maintaining a clothing optional policy. What's not to love? It's smarter and sexier than it has to be.
Guilty of being a lurid gay comedy that is light and frothy enough to be
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Guest House Films
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