All Over the Guy
|August 10, 2001 | It's easy to imagine
a thumb's-down review of the Planet of the Apes remake from Eli
(Dan Bucatinsky), one of the attracted opposites in All Over the
Guy. You see, Eli is a fanatical fan of the original 1968 sci-fi
classic. So much so, in fact, he spends most of his free time searching
for an action figure -- Cornelius, the sage and sympathetic ape played
by Roddy McDowall
-- inspired by the '68 movie and its many sequels.
In the eyes of his family and friends, Eli devotes far too much time to his nostalgic pursuit, hours that might be better spent on a search for Mr. Right. But after repeated strikeouts in the game of love, Eli is wary of playing the field. What he needs, or at least what he thinks he needs, is a sensitive soul who shares his tastes for fine food, old movies and kitschy collectibles. What he gets, courtesy of a matchmaking buddy, is Tom (Richard Ruccolo), a fun-loving libertine who smokes too much, drinks too much -- and, in all likelihood, thinks the new Planet of the Apes is a great flick, and would be even better if Mark Wahlberg wore a loincloth.
Freely adapted by actor-writer Bucatinsky from his own stage play, All Over the Guy is a lightweight but likable romantic comedy about mismatched gay singletons who take the better part of 90 minutes to realize that they're made for each other. Director Julie Davis (I Love You, Don't Touch Me!) smoothly steers the movie through familiar territory, and even manages to take a few clever detours here and there. Better still, Bucatinsky and Ruccolo are sufficiently ingratiating to sustain interest and amusement, even when All Over the Guy all too clearly is treading water.
During a few stretches of repetitive padding, you may be tempted to wander out to the concession stand, or at least cast a few impatient glances at your watch. But you'll wind up sticking with the underwritten, overextended story because you can't help caring about the lead characters.
Eli, a buttoned-down L.A. newspaper columnist, and Tom, an improbably dedicated special-ed teacher, are coaxed into a blind date by their respective best friends, Brett (Adam Goldberg) and Jackie (Sasha Alexander), a couple drawn together by lust at first sight. For Eli and Tom, however, romance isn't nearly as instantaneous: Their first get-together is a borderline disaster.
Even so, when the two guys fortuitously meet again at a flea market -- where Eli, of course, is looking for a Cornelius collectible -- love, or something like it, starts to blossom. Trouble is, when dawn arrives after their all-night close encounter, Tom departs from Eli's apartment with unseemly haste. He is, to put it charitably, commitment-averse.
To be sure, he's not the only guy carrying some weighty psychological baggage. The big difference is, Eli's problems -- memories of a childhood with oppressively "open-minded" therapist parents (Andrea Martin, Tony Abatemarco) -- are played mostly for laughs. It's left to Tom to do the really heavy lifting. Late in the movie, after an edgy encounter with his wealthy, alcoholic parents (Joanna Kerns, Nicolas Surovy), he shares with Eli a painful family secret. Unfortunately, what is intended as a wrenchingly dramatic moment comes off as a half-hearted splash of soap opera.
All Over the Guy is on much safer ground when it uses a lighter touch, and maintains a brighter mood, while charting the on-again, off-again romance of its two leads. The supporting players are uniformly well cast, though it should be noted that some have much more to do than others. Christina Ricci has only a couple of scenes as Eli's tough-talking sister, and Lisa Kudrow does a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo as a stunningly inept voiceover actress. Despite the brevity of their roles, however, I'll go way out on a limb and predict that, eventually, both actresses will receive prominent billing on VHS and DVD packaging.