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Happy and Gay

All Over the Guy is amiable, but just not that novel.

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Julie Davis's All Over the Guy is yet another entry in the ever-growing genre of gay romantic comedy. It's a step in the right direction that such films have become commonplace enough that they have to stand on their merits as part of the traditions of romantic comedies in general, as well as of the gay subset. But that context inevitably makes you wish that All Over the Guy had something a little more novel to offer.

The romance is recounted largely in flashback. At the beginning, we meet the two principals, who have just broken up: Eli (Dan Bucatinsky, who also adapted the script from his own stage play), a slightly fussy, neurotic young Jewish journalist whose dating problems undoubtedly stem from his excessively "progressive" upbringing by his parents; and Tom (Richard Ruccolo), a hunky young commitmentphobic teacher, who has his own family issues.

We learn that their first encounter was a blind date arranged by friends with an agenda. That is, Eli's best friend, Brett (Adam Goldberg), has met Tom's best friend, Jackie (Sasha Alexander), and wants to go out with her. Somehow this mutates into a deal in which their date is dependent on Brett fixing up Eli with Tom.

While Brett and Jackie almost immediately fall for each other, things are not so easy for Eli and Tom. Tom is difficult, even hostile; as he's leery of commitment, this is a sure sign that he senses the possibility of a real relationship, at least subconsciously. Eli keeps trying to placate Tom, but some things are too aggravating for him to bear. "What do you mean you've never seen Gone With the Wind?" he asks. "Well, I've seen parts of it," Tom responds, "like when, what's his name? Red Buttons? kisses Charlotte." He doesn't seem to be kidding, which means that Tom is not only ignorant of any gay subcultural stuff, but is also outside of mainstream culture in a way that suggests, well, stupidity.

Of course, we know that they will meet again after this disastrous beginning. Tom will drive Eli crazy with his intellectual shortcomings, and Eli will likewise alienate Tom with his desire for a real, long-term relationship.

The film isn't particularly gay-specific. In fact, Bucatinsky's original one-act play was about a hetero couple. But the very fact of the gender change has implications, given the traditional image of gay men as more promiscuous and less likely to settle down than straight guys.

Strangely, although the narrative structure -- the flashbacks intercut with both Eli and Tom relating the story -- invites the possibility of comic disparities, Davis and Bucatinsky never take advantage of it. The redeeming features of All Over the Guy are the consistently engaging performances and some genuinely funny dialogue. If one had to rate it on the "gay romantic comedy scale," it's better than the recent Hit and Runway and not as good as Jeffrey, which still puts it in the top third.

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