A good romcom feels effortless. An exercise in wish fulfillment and charm. A bad romcom reminds you how tricky the alchemy can be. The tropes that delighted in the past feel grating. Quirky neurotics grow irritating. Lonely “nice guys” become entitled jerks. Squabbling lovers may read as toxic. 2001’s All Over the Guy fits into the latter category.
Eli’s a passive aggressive neurotic. Tom’s a surly alcoholic. Their snarky straight friends set them up on a date and it goes badly. But because they’re the only significant gay characters in this movie they’ll keep hooking up and having ugly fights till the movie decides they’re a couple. There’s some cute banter, very little plot, and a mean-spirited romance I wasn’t invested in.
Let’s break it down in a spoiler filled recap.
Act One: Boy Meets Boy
Scene One: Blind Date
STRAIGHT FRIENDS (Adam Goldberg & Sasha Alexander): You’re our only gay friends. You should date.
NERD (Dan Bucatinsky): I liked the movie In and Out.
JERK (Richard Ruccolo): In and Out is sexless, homophobic trash.
NERD: Is this film any better?
JERK: Check please.
Scene Two: Outdoor Market
JERK: It’s so nice running into you!
NERD: Is it? I thought you hated me.
JERK: Only when I drink.
(They hook up.)
JERK: Gotta go. (Leaves.)
NERD: I guess he hates me after all.
Act Two: Tsundere
Scene Three: Bad Advice
STRAIGHT FRIENDS: You should be monogamous like us!
NERD’s SISTER (Christina Ricci): Yeah. It’s time for you to settle down.
NERD: Your straight privilege is showing. And why are you trying to set me up with a hostile alcoholic?
JERK: (on the phone) Hey cutey, I want to see you again.
Scene Four: Unhealthy Patterns
NERD: I like you.
JERK: Ugh. Let’s break up.
NERD: Okay. Then I hate you.
JERK: That’s hot. Let’s date again.
(The cycle repeats several times till…)
Scene Five: Country Club
JERK: Let’s have lunch with my parents.
PARENTS: We hate each other. (They get drunk and storm out.)
NERD: I’m sorry that your awful parents made you sad.
JERK: SCREW YOU! GET AWAY FROM ME!
NERD: FINE! (Storms out)
Act Three: Boy Finds Boy?
Scene Six: Straight Friend’s Wedding
JERK: I got beat up by a guy from my AA group. Now I realize I like you. (Kisses Nerd.)
STRAIGHT FRIENDS: We’re so glad you got together!
NERD: Did we?
To be able to call someone an asshole and still know how much they love you or whatever. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?Writer/Star Dan Bucatinsky
Dan Bucatinsky had written the stage play for a straight couple. His screenplay changed the Jerk from “Susan” to “Tom” but kept the dynamics intact. The romcom tropes are there. There’s a makeover montage, snarky friends and pop culture banter. There are wacky cameos from Andrea Martin, Doris Roberts and Lisa Kudrow. What’s missing is chemistry and a romance we can root for.
The problem’s not unique. The Thing About Harry and Happiest Season have one-sided relationships where a likeable character supports a hostile, abusive partner. Jeffrey and Trick feature complex protagonists with cardboard love interests. The Christmas Setup makes both leads bland and non-threatening. I watched because I was craving same-sex romcoms. But I felt a tinge of regret when the credits rolled.