Some lowbrow bathroom humor aside, “Saugatuck Cures” commences like a Lifetime movie in which Maggie (Judith Chapman), proprietor of a bed-and-breakfast in the titular bucolic Michigan town, presides over Thanksgiving dinner with dutiful gay son, Drew (Max Adler); stuck-up daughter, Penelope (Amanda Lipinski); Penelope’s deacon fiancée, Paul (Matthew Klingler); Penelope’s unfaithful alcoholic ex, Brett (Danny Mooney); the arbitrary token black transsexual, LaQuisha (Julianne Howe-Bouwens); and some random lady, Roberta (Ingrid Mortimer), whose cat Drew once rescued.
Maggie has cancer and can’t afford treatment — so far, so Lifetime. Inspired by the seemingly lucrative ex-gay therapy retreat run by Paul, Brett persuades Drew to travel from church to church with him in a Hetero Mobile and pretend to cure latent homosexuality to raise funds for Maggie’s procedure. Here, the film makes a sharp turn into a “Saturday Night Live"-type broad comedy complete with grotesque religious stereotypes, none more cringeworthy than Brett channeling a black pastor in a sermon that borders on minstrelsy.
Laughter can break down barriers, but don’t count on director Matthew Ladensack to help bridge differences. Poking fun at zealotry is one thing; the film actually vilifies those struggling to reconcile their religious upbringing with their sexual orientation. Given the higher suicide rate among gay youths, you’d expect a little compassion instead of mockery for the closet cases.
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.
Playing: Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.