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Commitment's a Struggle, Regardless of Sexual Orientation

"All Over the Guy" is a romantic comedy of wit and substance that actor-writer Dan Bucatinsky and director Julie Davis have moved gracefully from stage to screen with a change of title and sexual orientation.

Bucatinsky starred in his play "I Know You Are, but What Am I?" with Nicole Tocantins. In the screen version he's paired with Richard Ruccolo. If anything, this switch only heightens the universality of the challenges facing two people, regardless of sexual orientation, in committing to a loving relationship.

When we meet Bucatinsky's Eli and Ruccolo's Tom they've broken up. Eli, an L.A. newspaperman charged with editing police crime reports, is a pleasant-looking young man of hyper, uptight temperament who tends to view everything in judgmental blacks and whites. He's been overwhelmed by his psychiatrist parents (Andrea Martin and Tony Abatemarco), who are of the "let it all hang out/I understand your pain" school of thought; his mother carries empathy to hilarious heights. Hunkish Tom is more complex and vulnerable than Eli. His WASPish, country club parents (Joanna Kerns and Nicolas Surovy) have spent their married lives with martinis in hand. For all his athletic appearance, Tom, a special-ed teacher, tends to deal with life's problems by smoking and drinking while trying to convince himself he doesn't need anyone.

Eli, despite practicing safe sex, is compelled to get an HIV test every time a romance ends. Arriving early at a clinic, he is soon pouring out his heart to Doris Roberts' warm, wise and salty receptionist. Similarly, Tom tells his side of the breakup to a sympathetic man (Michael Harris) he meets at an AA meeting.

It turns out Eli and Tom have been skittish from the start. The people who fixed them up initially, Tom's best friend Jackie (Sasha Alexander) and Eli's best friend Brett (Adam Goldberg), make a better couple themselves and add a buoyant contrast to Eli and Tom, whose seesawing emotions keep them chronically edgy.

Christina Ricci and Lisa Kudrow, who starred in co-executive producer Don Roos' "The Opposite of Sex," make guest appearances--Ricci as Eli's sensible sister and Kudrow as a clueless actress auditioning for a commercial. Tocantins has a key supporting role as Jackie's pal Rachael.

"All Over the Guy" has been photographed so handsomely by Goran Pavicevic in well-chosen L.A. locations that it has the sheen and pace of more costly productions.

Davis, who first came to attention with "I Love You, Don't Touch Me!" (1997), directs the large cast with consistent skill and sound judgment, and Bucatinsky comes up with some unexpected revelations that effectively add darker tones to his abundant sense of humor. Best of all, "All Over the Guy" displays throughout a warm, unself-conscious quality of inclusiveness.

MPAA rating: R, for strong sexual content and language. Times guidelines: The language is blunt; the sex, however, is more talk than action.

'All Over the Guy'

Dan Bucatinsky: Eli

Richard Ruccolo: Tom

Adam Goldberg: Brett

Sasha Alexander: Jackie

A Lions Gate Films presentation of a Susan Dietz/Donnie Land production. Director Julie Davis. Producers Susan Dietz, Donnie Land, Juan Mas and Dan Bucatinsky. Executive producers Susan B. Landau and Don Roos. Screenplay by Dan Bucatinsky; adapted from his play "I Know You Are, but What Am I?" Cinematographer Goran Pavicevic. Editor Glenn Garland. Music Peter Stuart. Costumes Peter Mitchell. Production designer Fanae Aaron. Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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