Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson in “Old School.” Copyright 2003 – Dreamworks, LLC.
Facing eviction from their university-owned residence, Mitch (Luke Wilson), Beanie (Vince Vaughn), and Frank (Will Ferrell) find a legal loophole that allows them to keep their place by starting a fraternity – even though they’re not college students. Before long, they’ve established a veritable Animal House, raising the ire of the malevolent college dean (Jeremy Piven), who vows to put an end to their monkey business. Laughs come only at the expense of taste in this unabashedly lowbrow romp, thanks largely to Ferrell’s nonstop buffoonery and Vaughn’s irrepressible sarcasm. While the antics are unquestionably juvenile, they’re also irresistibly funny. Just be sure to check your brain at the box office when buying your ticket; with a character list that includes “Gang-Bang Guy,” “Naked Woman,” and “K-Y Jelly Girl,” you’re not gonna need it.
Grade: B+ Kinsey Scale: 4 (As in many horndog-male-bonding comedies, homoeroticism abounds. The first joke in the movie includes the word “faggot.” Ferrell, who at one point tongue-kisses Seann William Scott, spends much of his time naked, although the effect is purely comical. Andy Dick appears briefly as the ultra-femme instructor of “The Art of the Blowjob.” Wilson appeared in gay faves “Charlie’s Angels” and “Legally Blonde”; Ferrell was a sensitive cop in “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”; and Vaughn was the ultimate mama’s boy, Norman Bates, in gay director Gus Van Sant’s remake of “Psycho.” Piven was a regular on the pioneering gay sitcom “Ellen.”)
The Jungle Book 2
Sequelizing “The Jungle Book” was barely a necessity, but Disney has done it anyway, fashioning a perfunctory follow-up that rehashes the story instead of expanding it. Restless in civilization, jungle-boy Mowgli (voiced by Haley Joel Osment) heads back into the woods to boogie some more with his old pal Baloo (John Goodman). There, he once again matches wits with his nemesis, the nefarious tiger Shere Khan. More than 30 years have passed since the jazzy original film’s release; today, the beatnik-inspired dialogue and swing-influenced score feel exceedingly dated and contrived. This is especially true of a quartet of vultures clearly fashioned after the Beatles, a reference unlikely to be appreciated by a generation less familiar with “Hey Jude” than “Hey Arnold!”
Grade: C+ Kinsey Scale: 1 (Goodman played a gay man on TV’s short-lived “Normal, Ohio.”)
After moving to New York in search of fame and fortune, a dance teacher from India (Jimi Mistry) is mistaken for an enlightened sexual advisor by a flaky socialite (Marisa Tomei). He’s aided in the charade by a porn actress (Heather Graham), who shares her philosophies on sex with him because she believes he’s training for a career in adult films. Combining the giddy exuberance of India’s distinctive musicals with the tried-and-true formulas of American romantic comedies, this quirky love story pokes gentle fun at the cinematic extravaganzas of “Bollywood” (the Hindi-language film industry of Bombay), even as it gleefully incorporates the genre’s corny conventions, vivid color palettes, and dazzling production numbers. Although exceedingly silly, the film ultimately succeeds by evoking the qualities of the movies it sends up: sincerity, humor, and enthusiasm to spare.
Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 4 (A campy tone prevails throughout, particularly in the dizzying musical numbers, a few of which are set to the music of “Grease.” A character unexpectedly comes out of the closet, making for a surprisingly moving homo happy ending. Director Daisy von Scherler Mayer helmed gay fave “Party Girl.” Graham appeared in the lesbian-flavored “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,” and Tomei was in the TV AIDS drama _My Own Country.” Michael McKean, who appears as a porn director, was a transsexual hooker in “Never Again” and a gay dog owner in “Best in Show.” Christine Baranski, seen here as a hysterically droll aristocrat, has a string of gay-themed credits, including “The Birdcage,” “Jeffrey,” and “Cruel Intentions.”)
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
Inspired by a co-worker’s bad luck with men, how-to columnist Andie (Kate Hudson) decides to write an article on common relationship-ending mistakes women make. As research, she seduces Benjamin (Matthew McConaughey), then uses a slew of off-putting tactics to try to get him to dump her within 10 days. Trouble is, Benjamin’s out to prove to his colleagues that he can make a woman fall in love with him in the same amount of time. Unintentionally – and hilariously – thwarting each other’s efforts at every turn, the two somehow manage to fall in love. Buoyed by breezy, heartfelt performances and tremendous onscreen chemistry between Hudson and McConaughey, this film is a terrific example of how to make people laugh.
Grade: B+ Kinsey Scale: 2 (Benjamin and Andie visit a couples therapist, who suggests Benjamin might prefer men. Hudson locked lips with Liv Tyler as a bi-curious bride-to-be in “Dr. T & the Women,” while McConaughey’s early films included out screenwriter Don Roos’ “Boys on the Side” and queer director Joel Schumacher’s “A Time to Kill.”)
Following the surprise success of “Shanghai Noon,” Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan clamber back into the saddle for another go-round as improbable cowboys Roy O’Bannon and Chon Wang, this time trailing the man who killed Chon’s father. The mismatched duo eventually winds up in London, where Chon’s vengeful sister (Fann Wong) is already on the case. Of the countless fight sequences that follow, only two – one that unfolds amid a trove of priceless vases, and another, with umbrellas, set to “Singing in the Rain” – live up to Chan’s reputation for mirthful, imaginative combat. The rest of the action is disappointingly uninspired; add in recycled jokes, Wilson’s standard surfer-doofus persona, and a plot borrowed from Saturday morning cartoons, and you’ve got a ho-hum ride down a well-blazed trail.
Grade: C Kinsey Scale: 1 (Aside from a quip about “the man who would be queen,” there’s nothing gay going on here. However, Aidan Gillen, who plays a ruthless killer, starred as Stuart in the original British version of “Queer as Folk” and its sequel.)
Bob Fosse’s shrewd satire of crime as entertainment makes a stunning transition from the stage to the multiplex in a big-screen version overflowing with razzle-dazzle. Director-choreographer Rob Marshall doesn’t attempt to reinvent the movie-musical genre; instead, he wisely allows the cunning story and sizzling score to thrill viewers. When mousy chorine Roxy (Renee Zellweger) lands in the slammer for killing her boyfriend, she sees an opportunity to finally make it as a vaudeville star, much to the chagrin of the reigning cellblock celebrity, Velma (Catherine Zeta-Jones). The breathtaking musical numbers, which take place in Roxy’s imagination, seamlessly juxtapose the stark reality of prison life with the vivid theatricality of Prohibition-era jazz halls. Both leading ladies deliver outstanding performances, but, with a deliciously smarmy turn as sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn, it’s Richard Gere who repeatedly stops the show.
Grade: A Kinsey Scale: 3 (Singing, dancing, showtunes … there’s nothing quite as gay as an old-fashioned musical. This one was produced by openly gay duo Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who brought us “Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows.” Several cast members have appeared in gay-themed projects, including Gere, Christine Baranski, John C. Reilly, Queen Latifah, Taye Diggs, and the original Velma, Chita Rivera, who turns up here in a brief cameo.)
This macabre misfire scrapes the bottom of the idea barrel by reimagining the tooth fairy as a vengeful spirit who butchers anyone who lays eyes on her. Having seen the specter kill his mother when he lost his last tooth as a boy, the now-grown Kyle (Chaney Kley) lives in constant fear of the spirit. Nevertheless, he returns to his hometown when summoned by his childhood sweetheart (Emma Caulfield), whose younger brother has been haunted by visions of the phantom since losing a tooth of his own. Quick cuts and loud noises generate a few mild scares, but there’s no disguising the fact that this is merely a tired rehash of Horror 101. Masked villains, creepy kids, spooky folk legends, and gratuitous T&A – it’s all been done before, and much, much better.
Grade: F Kinsey Scale: 1 (Kley, who appeared in the camp fest “Legally Blonde,” had a guest spot on the gay TV fave “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” the show in which Caulfield has a regular role as an ex-demon.)
Deliver Us from Eva
Opinionated, acerbic, and downright brutal, Eva (Gabrielle Union) never met a man she wouldn’t gladly rip to shreds. Having raised her younger sisters (Essence Atkins, Robinne Lee, and Meagan Good) since she was 18, Eva still substitutes running their lives for living one of her own. Even though her sisters don’t mind Eva’s constant meddling, their husbands (Duane Martin, Mel Jackson, and Dartanyan Edmonds) certainly do. Hoping to distract Eva, the men hire Ray (LL Cool J), a smooth-talking ladies’ man, to seduce her. Energetic performances by all involved enliven the predictable antics that follow. The message of this comedy – that an ill-tempered woman only needs a man to make her happy – won’t win the hearts of feminists, but it’s best not to take such a frivolous film too seriously.
Grade: B- Kinsey Scale: 2 (The men force Ray’s hand by questioning his sexuality when he refuses to go on a second date with Eva. Much of the action takes place in a beauty salon, where the obligatory queeny hairdresser tosses out snappy one-liners. LL Cool J appeared in the campfest “Charlie’s Angels,” and Jackson was in a TV biopic of flamboyant rock-‘n’-roller Little Richard.)
Charlie (Jerry O’Connell), an uptight hairdresser, and Louis (Anthony Anderson), his zany best friend, are sent by Charlie’s mob-boss stepfather (Christopher Walken) to deliver $50,000 to an associate in Australia. When Louis places his “lucky” jacket on an injured kangaroo for a photo-op at the start of their journey, the animal makes off with the garment – and the cash-filled envelope stuffed inside it. Plenty of predictable, stereotypical hijinks – involving tranquilizer darts, drunken bushmen, and all sorts of marsupial mayhem – follow as they pursue the kangaroo across the Australian outback. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the king of adrenalized entertainment, has reworked the standard buddy flick into an energetic comedy for the preteen set, full of rowdy action and gross-out humor. But, despite the cuddly kangaroo, with contract killers and lots of sensuality in the mix, you might want to leave the youngest joeys at home.
Grade: B Kinsey Scale: 2 (In keeping with Bruckheimer’s reputation for testosterone-fueled films, there are lots of gay jokes here, many of them in reference to Charlie’s occupation; a few of them are actually funny. A hitman calls the friends “pansies.” O’Connell had a gay pal in “Tomcats,” and Anderson appeared in the Martin Lawrence drag comedy “Big Momma’s House.”)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The second cinematic installment in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is even better than its spectacular predecessor, thanks largely to a trio of spellbinding storylines. As the forces of evil grow stronger throughout Middle Earth, a now-separated fellowship of adventurers struggles to restore peace. While ring-bearer Frodo (Elijah Wood) and his faithful friend Sam (Sean Astin) endeavor to destroy a powerful magic ring, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), aided by a reborn Gandalf (Ian McKellen), help a besieged kingdom prepare for war. The epic nature of the source material makes for a complex three-hour saga, which shouldn’t bother ardent Tolkien fans; however, those not well-versed in all things Hobbit might want to brush up by viewing the first film again before catching this one.
Grade: A+ Kinsey Scale: 2 (Sam and Frodo share a tender exchange that borders on romantic. The predominantly male cast features plenty of swarthy good-lookers, including Mortensen, Bloom, David Wenham, and Karl Urban. Gay fave Bloom portrayed a male prostitute in “Wilde,” while out actor McKellen played gay director James Whale in “Gods and Monsters.”)
Recruited into the CIA by an assiduous special agent (Al Pacino), computer whiz James (Colin Farrell) proves himself a natural at the Agency’s secret training camp. There he rises to the top of his class while falling for Layla (Bridget Moynahan), a fellow trainee. But when he’s tapped for a top-secret operation to root out a government mole, James quickly learns the significance of the invaluable spy maxims “trust no one” and “nothing is what it seems.” Innumerable twists keep things interesting throughout, and, thankfully, Pacino’s characteristic grandstanding takes a back seat to Farrell’s riveting performance as a baffled novice forced to improvise at every turn. Nevertheless, the CIA’s touted cooperation with the making of this insider’s look at the spy business often lends it the unfortunate air of a not-so-subtle enlistment campaign.
Grade: B+ Kinsey Scale: 2 (There oughtta be a law against being as sexy as Farrell, whose breakout role was in gay director Joel Schumacher’s “Tigerland.” In “Dog Day Afternoon,” Pacino gave a sympathetic performance as a gay bank robber trying to get money for his lover’s sex-change operation. But his “Cruising,” about an undercover cop posing as a leather daddy to infiltrate the gay S/M subculture, set off loud protests from the queer community.)