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'G.B.F.' review: Totes tame

Matt Pais, @mattpais

RedEye movie critic

January 16, 2014

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** (out of four)

Movies earn cult followings for many reasons, and quality isn’t always one of them. Seemingly composed from discarded Diablo Cody jokes (like calling an Asian guy “Memoirs of a gay-nerd” and a Mormon girl “Whore-mon”), “G.B.F.” may catch on as a gay spin on “Mean Girls.” It has sass but not laughs.

It’s also set at a high school that’s meant to be conservative (North Gateway High has never had an openly gay student) but, problematically, looks like a sunny, lively L.A. campus. Not exactly the epitome of modern repression. Anyway, Brent (Paul Iacono) wants to come out of the closet and earn the attention of the school’s three warring queen bees, but his best friend, Tanner (Michael J. Willett), accidentally beats him to it. Tanner doesn’t want to be treated like a straight girl’s fashionable accessory, which is both a positive message and a poorly executed concept that first forces the shy guy to passively cozy up to girls who want to call him “bitch” and solicit fashion/romantic advice he does not possess.

If director Darren Stein (“Jawbreaker”) and writer George Northy allowed their characters’ brains to focus on something other than teen movie clichés—note: acknowledging the inevitable makeover montage is a cheap way to get away with duplicating conventions—then “G.B.F.” might have been a progressive look at modern teenhood and gay tolerance that still has plenty of room to grow. Megan Mullally, always a welcome presence, appears as Brent’s awkward but accepting mom, and there’s a better, less-cartoonish movie to be made about a parent who suspects something about her child but avoids the issue until he’s ready to talk.

Instead, “G.B.F.” (featuring distracting, small parts for Jonathan Silverman, Rebecca Gayheart, Horatio Sanz and Joanna “JoJo” Levesque) grabs at any lame one-liner it can, exhausting its creative effort on “latter-day skank” and “He’s spray-Tanner now.” The script phones in Bible-thumping bigots and a blatantly closeted Mormon dude, and why, when someone mentions a “BJ,” does Tanner scream, “A what?!,” as if he’s suddenly clueless?

It’s always important to show that people are multi-faceted (preferably in a less “Glee”-like manner), and there isn’t a super-long list of non-flamboyant, non-stereotypical gay movie characters like Tanner. But while the R-rated “G.B.F.” fell victim to the MPAA’s double standard for gay characters, it’s also a victim of arriving a decade late and calling itself the future.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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