Director Gary Entin’s film version of the Brent Hartinger YA novel "Geography Club" is light and fluffy, which makes it a sweet confection. There’s nothing hard-hitting about this film, however, especially in an age when GLBT youth and GSAs are more accepted than ever.
The screenplay, by Edmund Entin, updates the story’s trappings (the teens have iPhones) but doesn’t attempt to relocate the novel from its 2003 origins or explain why, exactly, the students and teachers at Goodkind High School (which looks like a generic So Cal sort of place) have such problems dealing with gay teens that the teens in questions feel the need to disguise their support group by calling it "Geography Club."
At the same time, the film feels so innocuous that it could have been screened in 2003 -- even as an After School Special, which it resembles in tone and affect -- to no great controversy. The teen at the center of the story, Russell Middlebrook (Cameron Deane Stewart), spends much of his time trying to fend off sexually aggressive girls, while his straight best friend Gunnar (Andrew Caldwell) pines in vain for their rapacious attentions. It’s Gunnar, of course, who gets to act with typically crude teen rambunctiousness; the saintly Russell, by contrast, succumbs to peer pressure and joins in on the bullying of an awkward fellow student named Brian (Two Olivares) (no mention of whether Brian is gay or straight).
However, Russell does have a chance to hook up, more or less chastely, with school football hero Kevin (Justin Deeley). (In the novel Kevin was a baseball star, but never mind.) Kevin has extremely open-minded parents (one of them played by Scott Bakula, who cheerfully talks about Kevin’s gay uncle at dinner), but even so, Kevin can’t handle the thought that he might be gay; he wants to be a jock and get a college scholarship. In short, "I want to be normal."
Fair enough; but the deeper forces that tear at gay kids are mostly cited or referenced in passing, without the force of those currents registering outside of angsty declamations.
There are no special features on this release (none, at least, on the review screener). It’s hard to figure out who this movie is supposed to appeal to; overall, it’s sweet, but slight. See it on demand.