1½ stars (out of four)
Picking up where "Kate & Leopold" and "Alex & Emma" left off, "Adam & Steve" is a mostly bland, sporadically crude, by-the-numbers romantic comedy about two gay men in love: Adam (Craig Chester), who fancies himself a male Julia Roberts, and Steve (Malcolm Gets), who has always been more of a Meg Ryan.
It's New York, 1987, and Adam, Gothed-out in white-face makeup and black leather, finds himself at the Limelight with best friend Rhonda (Parker Posey, slurring her words in a fat suit). There he locks eyes with Steve, a glam-rock dancer with ratty Whitesnake hair and skin slathered in baby oil. After several doses of coke, Steve and Adam find themselves back at Adam's apartment. After several more doses, Steve and Adam find themselves somewhere much worse: deep in the shame of snorting coke laced with baby laxatives. They never make it into bed. I don't want to talk about it.
Fast-forward 17 years to the East Village, circa today. Adam, de-Gothed and cleaned up, meets Steve, now a handsome, buff doctor. Neither recognizes the other, and so begins a lackluster love affair, with angst over saying the L-word, awkward meetings of the parents and oddball best friends (a slimmed-down Rhonda is still Adam's pal, a very funny Chris Kattan plays Steve's sleazy straight roommate).
Writer/director/star Chester is an indie hero for his turn as Nathan Leopold in 1992's "Swoon," and his performance is the best thing about "Adam & Steve." But we've seen this setup too many times before. Boy meets boy; obstacle; obstacle overcome. Plus, tonally and conceptually, Chester's film swings drastically between scenes of literal poop and lines like this: "I'm tired of fighting you and the whole world just so I can have something as radical and subversive as [a] boyfriend." (To be honest, "I wish I could quit you" isn't much better.)
Earlier this year, I saw "Imagine Me & You," a London-set meet-cute lesbian love story that mistakenly depended on its characters' sexuality to transcend its mechanical plot. It didn't work, and why should it? Just as a bad road trip comedy starring an all-black cast is still a bad road trip comedy, movies like "Imagine Me & You" and "Adam & Steve" make all the wrong assumptions. They rely on the notion that a gay and lesbian audience will be appeased enough to see themselves on the screen that they'll accept mediocrity, or presume that straight folk will be so intrigued by that mysterious gay lifestyle that we won't notice it's just old schmaltz, recast.
Speaking of recast, you can look forward to a teen comedy this summer called "Another Gay Movie," which features four high school pals trying to lose their virginity before college. As per the film's Web site, we can expect the jock, the valedictorian, the all-American and the "pierced alternative-kid." I know it sounds familiar, but don't worry, they're gay.
'Adam and Steve'
Written and directed by Craig Chester; photographed by Carl Bartels; edited by Phyllis Housen; production designed by Cecil Gentry; music by Roddy Bottum; produced by Kirkland Tibbels. A TLC Releasing and Funny Boy Films release; opens Friday at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema. Running time: 1:39. No MPAA rating (sex, drugs and adult themes).
Steve - Malcolm Gets
Adam - Craig Chester
Rhonda - Parker Posey
Michael - Chris KattanCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times