Film Review


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Date and Switch

Dakota Johnson and Hunter Cope in Chris Nelson's Date and Switch. [Photo: Lionsgate]

Date and Switch 2.5 out of 4 star2-5

Michael (Nicholas Braun) and Matty (Hunter Cope) have been best friends since childhood, and as high schoolers are the types of guys who say "get our dicks wet" without irony and aspire to lose their virginities by prom. This may sound like familiar terrain for a teen movie, until Matty confides to Michael, "I'm a gay dude." Refreshingly, Date and Switch doesn't treat Matty as a stereotype (such pigeonholing is reserved for the characters encountered during a later, and awkward, visit to a gay bar), and the fact that Michael remains his friend and doesn't immediately freak out is also bracing. Matty's coming out inevitably prompts a number of mildly comical dick jokes, and in a funny set piece, Michael, genuinely confused about what gay guys are into, looks at guy-on-guy porn in an attempt to do "research."

Given the film's raunchy setup, Michael's naïveté is surprisingly sweet. Inevitably, his father, Terry (Nick Offerman), walks in on the boy, and the two attempt to converse as the porn flick's sex sounds increasingly swell. The originality of the scene is derived from the way it reverses the typical narrative of gay panic: Rather than be grossed out by it, Michael seeks to understand his friend's orientation, and his father's unfortunately timed appearance is amusingly deadpan, allowing for Terry himself to show his acceptance as he tells his son that he will love him no matter what. Sadly, the rest of the film lacks for such richness of meaning, revealing itself to be a more liberal and up-to-date, though still safe, alternative to the typical teen movie, and replete with a number of details (including Michael and Matty being in a TV-theme-song cover band, Aziz Ansari in a small role as a morbid go-kart worker, and Matty's mother's excitement over a chicken roaster) that strain for quirky-indie credibility without really going anywhere.

The film's forced quirkiness and repeated displays of bro-ism in action may hinder the potential for a more subtle approach to the potentially challenging issue the story depicts, but there are bright spots, such as the moral center represented by Matty's ex-girlfriend and Michael's eventual crush, Em (Dakota Johnson). She takes Matty's orientation in stride, listening to his insecurities and offering him advice, and even has a drunken hookup with him after he comes out; to its credit, the film doesn't treat sexuality as entirely black and white. Though Date and Switch ties itself up too neatly, and Michael's big moment in the spotlight at prom is cheesy at best and patronizing at worst, it's enlivened by some cheerfully bawdy humor, with its final sequence saliently rebuking the often homophobic tendencies of many teen movies in its normalization of gay relationships.

Director(s): Chris Nelson Screenwriter(s): Alan Yang Cast: Nicholas Braun, Hunter Cope, Dakota Johnson, Sarah Hyland, Nick Offerman, Gary Cole, Megan Mullally, Wendi McLendon-Covey Distributor: Lionsgate Runtime: 91 min Rating: R Year: 2014

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