Having seen Wet Hot American Summer, it’s impossible to take any film seriously that follows the formula “lovable band of misfits undergoes wacky training montage to come back and beat the evil team.” If Shaolin Soccer isn’t your cup of tea, there aren’t really options when it comes to defying the convention, and throwing in other clichés and stereotypes (in this case, nice gay men beset on all sides by evil homophobes) certainly isn’t going to help matters. That’s precisely where Guys and Balls finds itself, as awkward as it sounds—juxtaposed between the predictability of Bad News Bears and the camp tag of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (its title is all it needs for that).
Guys and Balls outs Ecki (Maximilian Brückner) quickly, placing him clumsily on top of a teammate after blowing a loss that keeps his hometown team in the B-league for yet another season. The die is cast quickly and Ecki is sent off to Dortmund to find 10 other gay soccer players to take on his former team. His cohorts cover the spectrum of zaniness and Ecki even gets a romantic interest, bringing the film ever closer to Bend It Like Beckham. A trio of leather enthusiasts and an unsurprising David Beckham admirer keep the laughs going regularly, though, even with some disturbing undercurrents.
The inherent problem is that, even if the gay team wins in the end, they’re still treated as inferior for most of the film. It’s bad enough when geeks or losers get such treatment, but singling out people already in a struggle with homophobia in the sports world (just ask Esera Tuaolo), even in “good fun,” affixes a malevolent undertone that is likely more realistic than the comedy might intend. It’s to director Sherry Horman’s credit that the players themselves start off with talent, but the one-two punch of the film’s script-in-a-can and 80% of the cast’s negative mindset is difficult to overcome with a last-second goal.
Guys and Balls fares better than its sister release this week, Summer Storm. The image is prone to edge enhancement but the quality is attractive, with accurate and clean skin tones, pleasant grain levels, and nicely saturated colors. Sound is also good, especially when someone kicks a ball.
Like the Summer Storm disc, nichts, except for a theatrical trailer for the film and other gay-themed titles coming our courtesy of Genius Products: Summer Storm, Third Man Out, HellBent, and Dante's Cove.
Not to be confused with the infinitely superior Balls Between the Legs.