DVD Review - Saugatuck Cures
Adler can stand tall and exude strength, as well as confidence. His eyes can squint and his brow can furrow conveying such intimidation or even menace, but the rest of his face and his smile can brighten, along with the rest of his body, to make him come across as just a hug-able, teddy bear. Director Matthew Ladensack is able to capture this strength and this brightness rather easily. Adler delivers it so naturally.
Adler is best known from his role on the TV series Glee where he was able to nail the tall and menacing bully. Later, the vulnerability of his character was explored, and, toward the end of his time on the FOX program, his character tried to tap into or express aspects of sex and love. He might feel awkward, but Adler could very much be loving and even very sexy. Other than a stint on the series Switched at Birth, Adler hasn't really been given much opportunity to be really sexy on screen. This film could have afforded Adler such an opportunity.
Written by Jay Paul Deratany, this movie is about various things. It's about homophobia. It's about sibling rivalry. It's about platonic love and what people are willing to do for that platonic love, especially if it's for a sick relative or close acquaintance. The first act of this film is good but the rest feels too disparate and disconnected with the ending too well or too quickly wrapped up.
A brief thrust in the narrative comes from a plan for Andrew to pretend to be an ex-gay minister as he goes from town-to-town and church-to-church scamming people into thinking it's possible to cure oneself from being homosexual. Drew's best friend Brett, played by Danny Mooney, comes up with this plan as a way of raising money for Drew's cancer-stricken mom, Maggie, played by Judith Chapman (The Young and the Restless).
Sadly, too little is devoted to this aspect of the narrative. Adler might have been attracted to this project because it's similar to his previous film project. Adler co-starred in Believe Me (2014), a movie about college-age youngsters going town-to-town and church-to-church scamming people into giving money to a fraudulent religious cause. Believe Me is absent the gay rights element. Yet, Believe Me took its time to develop the scam and fully immerse us in it. This movie really makes so little of the scam or of the effect of ex-gay ministries, which are real and can be hurtful.
Believe Me is also more a drama, whereas this movie is more of a comedy. As such, Deratany feels the need to add overtly comedic or ridiculous moments to increase the laughs. For example, there are two chase scenes that happen almost back-to-back, which are meant to be comical but only come across as clunky. A kangaroo court scene is also extremely clunky, and a scene at a Synagogue sinks like a lead balloon.
The true funny moments are the smaller moments that don't feel so contrived. One is the food truck starting and stopping. Another is the Freudian slips during Thanksgiving dinner. Yet, even those go on for perhaps too long. There are also a bit too many comical characters in the mix. From LaQuisha, the black and sassy transsexual to Roberta, the white-haired, elderly woman who tags along for random asides, the characters can be funny, but a hitchhiker who may or may not be lesbian is one too many.
Going back to Max Adler, he truly is the reason to watch this movie. There is a warmth and a magnetism to him. Yet, by the end, we see his character Drew get married, and the problem is that not enough time is provided between Drew and his love interest, Paul, played by Matthew Klingler.
Ladensack's short film The Apple Tree, which was absolutely fantastic, only had a few scenes between two gay men to establish their romance, but Ladensack made it work to great effect. He doesn't do that here. The romance, therefore, between Drew and Paul feels like it comes out of nowhere when it should've been developed more. Adler and Klingler should've been given more scenes alone together to build that chemistry.
Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains brief nudity and mature subjects.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 30 mins.
Available on DVD on June 30.