Chris Nelson’s second feature film, Date and Switch is absent of the same critical element missing from his first feature Ass Backwards—humor. That’s not to say that there aren’t some amusing lines scattered throughout, but they are few and far between.
The teen sex comedy centers on two high school seniors, Michael (Nicholas Braun) and Matty (Hunter Cope), who are on that age-old teenage quest to—you guessed it—lose their virginity before that God-awful, stress-inducing life event called the Senior Prom. What sets this film apart from the plethora of teenage romantic comedies already in existence is the story’s premise: it turns out that Matty is gay and ready to come out of the closet. Despite an interesting premise, Date and Switch gets lost, and ultimately stuck, in the woods of its own story.
Best friends since the third grade, Michael and Matty decide to bake pot-filled brownies in preparation of the celebration of their ultimate “scores.” When Matty informs Michael that he’s gay, the latter is basically unfazed by the news and sets out on a new mission to find his best friend a boyfriend. Meanwhile he, rather conveniently, finds himself falling for Matty’s ex-girlfriend (Dakota Johnson).
Originally titled, Gay Dude, Lionsgate smartly decided to rename the film, which is pleasantly void of the most prominent gay stereotypes, but sadly devoid of basic emotions.
With the success of Modern Family and Glee, it’s easy to understand why Nelson’s unique take on a formulaic, albeit well-received storyline would be appealing to Hollywood. No one can deny that making a gay teenager the main character in a coming-of-age movie (as opposed to the token best friend) is a step in the right direction. But a promising premise still needs to be supported by solid characterization, good dialogue, an interesting plot, etc. In these fundamentals, Date and Switch comes up short.
While screenwriter, Alan Yang (“Parks and Recreation” writer) takes care not to overwhelm the script with too much backstory, it’s missing depth. Unlike other teen-aimed “classics” (Pretty in Pink, Superbad, The Breakfast Club), the characters in Date and Switch feel like teen caricatures. They simply aren’t relatable. The angst that gives this genre its legs and universality is missing. Moments of anger, fear, worry or even torment are forgotten, forgiven or accepted at a startlingly accelerated rate.
Coming out to your best friend of a decade; outing your best friend to his unsuspecting, conservative parents; or sleeping with your ex who your best friend is falling for all seem like plot points that scream for character exposition and growth. But Yang doesn’t allow it. These emotionally weighted moments aren’t examined—they are just there to move the story along.
Like most teenagers dealing with their sexuality (gay or straight), anxiety and fear come with the territory. Awkwardness abounds and makes the whole nightmarish situation of puberty funny for audiences to take in. Not so in Date and Switch. Lame jokes (even when delivered by comedic vets like Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman) mixed with painfully paced sequences make this potential-filled rom-com fall flat.
Still, at least Date and Switch offers a fresh take on a oft-covered topic. And who knows—it might even lead to more gay leading protagonists in the teen film genre.
Director: Chris Nelson
Writer: Alan Yang
Starring: Nicholas Braun, Hunter Cope, Dakota Johnson, Sarah Hyland
Release Date: Feb. 14, 2014