Equal parts Pretty in Pink sweet and American Pie spicy, Date and Switch puts a contemporary spin on not only the “best friend’s girl” storyline but also the entire “lose it before prom night” teen movie subgenre in which high school students hope to find love and/or sex by the end of the last big dance of their senior year.
A coming-of-age bromance-after-romance which was penned by a Parks and Recreation staff writer, the film serves up an unusual yet long overdue twist on the friendship-centric tale wherein hormones and mixed emotions threaten to drive a wedge between our two leads.
Best friends since grade school after they bonded over an embarrassing display of solidarity to save face in a school play gone wrong, when the film begins, Michael (Nicholas Braun) is thrown for a loop when his veritable brother from another mother and favorite stoner buddy Matty (Hunter Cope) announces that while he may not watch the Tony Awards, he most definitely is gay.
Determined to help him make good on their pact to get some booty before graduation all the same, after both of them break up with their girlfriends (for two very different reasons), Michael stands by Matty as an ever-eager wingman, accompanying him to gay bars to try and find him a date.
While Matty’s more fond of the guy they get into a car accident with than the intimidating, fast-paced predators of the gay club scene, Michael finds himself also tested by new temptation when he begins falling for Matty’s gorgeous ex, Em (Dakota Johnson).
But is there still a bro code if your bro likes bros?
Date and Switch handles its uncharted terrain with charm, sensitivity and intellect, admirably navigating the alternately messy and complicated landscape of teen love and angst with as much of an interest in emotional truth as entertaining fiction.
As such, it’s a fresh counterpoint to the often homophobic humor that's pervaded both the mid ‘90s and beyond bromances as well as some of the Frat Prack movies of the Apatow era.
Well-written despite its formulaic-by-nature paradigm, Date and Switch strikes a fine balance by aiming at viewers who are perhaps stuck somewhere in between the art kid cool cliques of Perks of Being a Wallflower (which co-starred Braun) and the aggressively hyper-masculine, less gay friendly comedies of the past few years.
Overlooked in its initial release, Date will definitely draw an audience of Fifty Shades of Grey readers eager to see the lead actress in the form of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson’s talented daughter Dakota (who was also terrific in the short-lived sitcom Ben and Kate) as well as fans of Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland, who also appears in a small role.
Nonetheless, although Date and Switch harks back to the bygone era of John Hughes movies, to best appreciate it, you really need to take a cue from the hit soundtrack of another ‘80s school dance-centric classic Footloose and “hear it for the boys,” who are wonderful in surprisingly three-dimensional roles.
Admittedly, the scenes involving the parents are as contrived as you might expect given the genre but fortunately under the direction of Chris Nelson, the well-rounded comedic cast of recognizable favorites including Gary Cole, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally and others lend nice, low-key support (while simultaneously managing the difficult task of never making their performances feel like obvious “name” cameos).
All of these elements in addition to sound production values help the affable film bounce back from a few minor second act rough spots in time for its uplifting conclusion, which is fittingly set at the prom (in a move taken right out of the age old teen movie playbook).
Nonetheless, just when you fear that they’re settling for something too clichéd, Date and Switch evolves from average to downright impressive as screenwriter Alan Yang pens one of the genre’s strongest “power to the outsiders” speeches we’ve seen since scripter Tina Fey helped Lindsay Lohan take the crown ten years ago in Mean Girls.
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