Michael (Nicholas Braun) and Matty (Hunter Cope) have been friends since they were little kids, but now it’s coming to the end of high school. In time honoured film fashion, they decide to make a pact to lose their virginities before prom – after which they’ll celebrate by eating a tray of pot brownies.
There is one wrinkle though, as Matty hasn’t told Michael that he’s gay. When he does – and after a bit of an initial freakout – Michael gets on board with the idea and even tries to help Matty get into the swing of the gay world. However Matty finds that difficult, as he’s still a bit of a stoner dude and isn’t sure how to be gay in a world where he doesn’t fit into any of the stereotypes he’s seen.
Things get more complicated when Michael starts to worry that with Matty exploring the gay world and meeting a potential boyfriend, it may end up ruining their friendship – something that’s incredibly important to him. Things then come to a head after Michael gets close to Matty’s ex-girlfriend Em (Dakota Johnson), and discovers that even after they split up and Matty came out, they had one more dalliance together.
In some respects Date And Switch is a bit of an odd film, as on one side it’s absolutely determined to avoid stereotypes and clichés, and on the other it throws itself into typical teen movie gross-out tropes with wild abandon.
It’s great to see a movie centred around a gay teen who sits resolutely outside the stereotypes. Indeed on that score it delves into territory that’s rarely been dealt with entertainingly on screen, despite it being extremely common amongst gay men. What if you dip your toe into gay culture, but it doesn’t seem to fit with who you are? Do you shove yourself into a stereotype in order to try to belong? Do you turn your back on it and hope to get by in the closet? Or do you try to find a way to be gay and part of a wider LGBT world while still being true to yourself?
I also liked how it appreciates that for quite a few young people, their first steps into gay culture are at the coaxing of friends who are trying to be supportive, but that the fallout may not be what either the gay guy or the friend were hoping for, especially if things are moving faster than either are ready for.
Date And Switch wisely avoids making Matty camp, bitchy or any other gay stereotype, while also acknowledging these things do exist in the gay world, and that they can be an issue for young gay people who wonder whether that’s what expected of them in order to belong. Indeed when it’s just dealing with Matty’s coming out the movie is pretty smart, from tackling the fears that it will destroy friendships and family relationships to the fact that it can often seem easier to pretend you’re straight just for convenience.
However on the plot side Date And Switch is sometimes a little too silly and unoriginal for its own good. It’s also a little old-fashioned, as there’s more than a whiff of 90s teen movie about it. Now don’t get me wrong, I have a major soft spot for 90s teen flicks, but despite the gay-straight friendship feeling relatively fresh and a few really funny lines, the rest of it is a case of having seen it all before.
Even so it works, with Nicholas Braun and Hunter Cope having great fun in the central roles (I’ve often thought Braun has the potential to be a breakout star), along with great support from the likes of Megan Mullally, Gary Cole, Nick Offerman, Sarah Hyland and Zach Cregger.
There’s also Dakota Johnson as Em, who gets a side role here – and she does a good job of it – but in a few days time she’s likely to become a much bigger deal when Fifty Shades Of Grey is released, and she’s being Jamie Dornan’s sexual plaything.
It may not be perfect, but despite its somewhat stoner comedy roots, purely in terms of dealing with a young man taking his first steps into the gay world, it’s actually a lot smarter than many other movies, dealing with surprisingly real issues that many of us will have faced at one time or another, and which have largely been ignored on the screen. Unlike many coming out films, it fully appreciates that ‘gay’ doesn’t become the primary facet of your personality the moment you come out, and it’s also nice to see a movie that realises that while your friends should be there to offer support, they have their own journey to go on.
Overall Verdict: There’s the promise here of a movie that could have been brilliant and with a bit more tinkering might have become a breakout mainstream hit, but while it aims high and does deliver a fair amount, it’s not as good as it might have been.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac