If gay men were allowed to kiss on TV -- I mean really kiss -- a frivolous but passably entertaining sitcom flick like "All Over the Guy" probably would have -- probably should have -- become network series instead of a movie. Think a more sexually active "Will and Grace."
This two-perspective, romantic comedy dissection of a relationship's rise-and-fall is packed with sitcom stars living through sitcom conflicts while plucky sitcom soft rock guitar plays incidentally on the soundtrack. And you know how, after sitcoms have been on the air too long, they'll turn oh-so-poignant from time to time, having some sadness befall a character the writers hope we've come to love? "All Over the Guy" does that too.
These are not complaints, per se. This is a spirited and reliably funny movie. But it just feels so workaday, like a sitcom in its fifth season, that nothing much about it stands out.
Dan Bucatinsky (who also wrote the script) and Richard Ruccolo (ABC's "Two Guys and a Girl") play Eli and Tom, a freshly broken-up couple in the awkward position of being the best man and "man of honor" at the upcoming wedding of their two best friends. Tom's gal pal Lydia ("Dawson's Creek's" Sasha Alexander) and Eli's straight buddy Brett (Adam Goldberg) meet first, and upon discovering both have gay best friends, they use matchmaking as an excuse to flirt themselves.
The story of the opposites-clash romance between insecure, nerdish, boyfriend-hunting Eli and masculine, moody, bed-hopping Tom is told in flashback as the two guys grouse to sympathetic strangers about how it all went wrong. Tom's at an AA meeting -- his drinking is supposed to play a part in their breakup, but other than a little temper and over-ordering cocktails at dinner his "problem" is poorly documented. Eli's unburdens himself on a busybody receptionist (Doris Roberts, "Everybody Loves Raymond") at a clinic where he's getting a precautionary post-relationship AIDS test.
The evolutions of the two couples are enjoyably romantic and highlighted by playfully argumentative pop-culture banter, as when Tom rips into the middle-America pandering of the "mainstream" gay flick "In and Out" -- just before discovering Eli loves that movie. Oops. After getting off to a bad start, they bond over weirdly dysfunctional upbringings (complete with funny flashbacks) and their mutual amusement over how smitten their straight friends have become.
Most of this feels like wallpaper depth, however -- especially in the case of Tom, whose shallow, selfish fear of relationships doesn't make him seem like much of a catch. His behavior is often hard to understand, and first-time director Julie Davis doesn't get her actors to really zero in on their character traits in "All Over the Guy."
As personalities, Lydia and Brett fare worse. They're likable enough and quite giddy together, but we know so little about them (and they know so little about each other) that when Brett pops the question after a just few weeks, one can't help but think, "Whoa big fella, that was a bit fast!"
It doesn't help that all four actors are unintentionally upstaged by Christina Ricci and Lisa Kudrow, who both shine in small supporting roles (no doubt favors for producer Don Roos, their director in "The Opposite of Sex").
"All Over the Guy" is a good idea for a story, and it's not going to truly disappoint anyone with a desire to see it. But it is underdeveloped, somewhat superficial and occasionally a little absurd. If only it could have been a TV show, these appealing and clever characters might have had time to become more distinctive and involving. Who knows? It might have even been a hit.
Run time: 95 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 7th March 2002
Box Office Worldwide: $1.1M
Distributed by: Lions Gate Films
Production compaines: LionsGate
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 43%
Fresh: 20 Rotten: 27
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: Julie Davis
Starring: Dan Bucatinsky as Eli Wyckoff, Lisa Kudrow as Marie, Richard Ruccolo as Tom, Sasha Alexander as Jackie Samantha Gold, Andrea Martin as Dr. Ellen Wyckoff, Joanna Kerns as Lydia, Christina Ricci as Rayna Wyckoff, Doris Roberts as Esther, Adam Goldberg as Brett Miles Sanford
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