If the gay-themed "Tennessee Queer" came out 20 years ago — or was at least a more deftly made film — perhaps it wouldn't seem so desperately past its sell-by date. But this unevenly acted yuckfest, which is as unsubtle as its title, has all the pizazz of a bad sitcom episode.
When Jason Potts (Christian Walker), a New York City librarian living in domestic bliss with his idyllic boyfriend (Jerre Dye), is summoned back to his native Smyth, Tenn., under false pretenses (long story), he decides something must be done to combat the provincial town's undying homophobia. Jason's plan: to organize the berg's first gay pride parade and bust open the closet for local LGBT youth.
Sure, it's a nice idea. But aside from the fact that Jason's motives are not wholly pure (he's also trying to prove a point to his meddling family), his scheme, as it unfolds here, feels contrived and implausible.
Also convoluted are the torpedoing efforts of Jason's clownish rival, Smyth's Bible-quoting mayoral hopeful — and self-described "soldier in the culture wars" — Dewayne Cotton (Billie Worley). With the help of a Pat Robertson-like preacher (Jim Eikner), Cotton pretends to support the looming parade in hopes of nabbing the homegrown gay participants and shuttling them off to a pray-away-the-gay camp, a place shown to excess in a weak promotional video spoof.
Given that entrapment is such a historically evil tactic, its use within a comic environment feels misguided. But that's endemic of the movie's overall problem: In attempting to skewer persistent red state-style homophobia, writer-producer Mark Goshorn Jones and fellow co-director Ryan Earl Parker too often overplay the stereotypes — both gay and straight — to diminishing returns.
"Tennessee Queer." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. At the Arena Cinema, Hollywood.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times