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What does a horny high-schooler do when his partner in the quest to lose his virginity reveals he likes guys instead of girls? In Chris Nelson‘s Date and Switch, he tries awfully hard to be cool about it, but the awkwardness of being a teenager gets in the way. Like its protagonist, Nelson’s amiable comedy occasionally gets fixated on things that don’t serve its overall purpose and is too self-conscious to really shine. But it’s a more competent, accessible film than its stealthy theatrical release suggests and should be diverting to those who discover it on VOD.
Michael (Nicholas Braun) and Matty (Hunter Cope) are the kind of Hollywood high schoolers who look like they shouldn’t be hanging out with 18 year-olds, much less portraying them. Opening scenes, in which they lament their lack of sexual experience and set a course to get laid by prom, play out with an awkwardness that’s amplified by a lame device the script keeps alive until its final scenes: After scoring some pot, the boys cook a brownie cake and put it in the freezer, planning to eat it together once they’ve both been deflowered.
That joint mission is made trickier when Matty takes Michael for a ride and calmly announces, “I’m a gay dude.” While the script’s depiction of Matty’s sexual innocence may seem implausible — though he has known of his persuasion since he was 7, this city-dwelling, internet-connected kid hasn’t done enough research to be “sure how I feel about scrotums” — Cope’s embodiment of it is relaxed and real. When Michael quickly comes around, offering to play wingman in this new arena, Matty is almost as uninterested as Michael is in the jocks and pimply losers at school; he’s similarly unexcited by the flaming, E-tripping cliches at the gay bars they visit. Then he meets Greg (Zach Cregger), who’s more interested in hanging out at lucha libre bouts than twerking on the dance floor. When Matty marvels, “Dude, how are you a gay guy?,” we know it’s love.
Michael is predictably jealous, and in sharing his confusion with the girl Matty dated when he was closeted (Dakota Johnson‘s Em), he discovers an attraction that will provoke a similarly wrongheaded possessiveness in his pal. The friendship is strained, and Michael repeatedly takes his stress out on that poor brownie cake in the freezer.
While both the film’s leads are likeable, the actors playing their respective love interests display slightly more charisma. Veteran comic actors in the supporting cast, including Nick Offerman and Aziz Ansari (presumably recruited by screenwriter Alan Yang, a Parks and Rec vet), are valuable in a few memorable scenes, but overall the picture fails to hit and sustain the comic pitch that would win a broad teen audience.
Production Companies: Lawrence Mark Productions, Lionsgate
Director: Chris Nelson
Screenwriter: Alan Yang
Producers: Jai Stefan, Laurence Mark, David Blackman
Executive producers: Alan Yang, Matt Kaplan
Director of photography: David Robert Jones
Production designer: Geoff Wallace
Music: Eric D. Johnson
Costume designer: Maria Livingstone
Editors: Tia Nolan, Akiko Iwakawa-Grieve
R, 90 minutes
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