Don't be misled by the title into believing this is a porno flick â€“ it's actually another coming-of-age film from Germany that centers around a young man's homosexuality and desire to be accepted.
Ecki, a goalie for a local soccer team, finds his life turned upside down when, after losing an important game, he finds himself in a compromising position with another man. His teammates walk in on the scene and immediately throw him off the team. Rather than be cowed by their homophobia, Ecki moves out of the family home and in with his sister, who helps him to scout out members for an all-gay soccer team. Ecki's plan is to play his old team.
It is impossible not to compare this film with another German offering, Summer Storm, which approaches the topic with much more sweetness and melancholy. There are many similarities, especially the protagonist of each film having to fend off the advances of a nubile young girl who wants more than just friendship. Both films center around a sports theme, which gives an obvious backdrop against which to tell a story about homophobia and how modern masculinity should be defined. Summer Storm does it better, perhaps because much of that story integrates the coming out process; in Guys and Balls, the main character is outed right off the bat, and because of the emphasis on comedy, I suppose, it plays more into tired gay stereotypes. There is a ridiculously tall drag queen named Victoria, who loses a high heel the first time she tries to kick the soccer ball. There are the leather-clad, biker types, a super-feminine type, a lesbian who looks more like a man than a womanâ€¦the list goes on and on. It is bad enough that in mainstream films, gays are reduced to playing the super-effeminate gal pal who helps with wardrobe and make-up tips, but in a movie that could help to break down some of these stereotypes and chooses not to, it is a sad sight to see.
That said, Guys & Balls improves immensely about halfway through, as the big game approaches. What this film does best is not the obvious comedic moments, which aren't exactly laugh-out-loud funny, but the more dramatic plot developments. For example, when a customer of the bakery owned by Ecki's family makes a homophobic joke, the expression on Ecki's mother's face is absolutely heartbreaking. On the one hand, she is disapproving of Ecki's homosexuality, yet on the other, she cannot bear to think her beloved son would be subjected to being ridiculed, even though the joke itself was not aimed at him. Ecki's father has a completely different reaction to the same customer. Perhaps the nicest element of the story is Ecki's developing relationship with a young, good-looking hospital worker named Sven. Their passion for one another and growing friendship comes across as genuine and touching. There is a small subplot wherein one of the team members attempts to reconnect with his estranged young son despite the objections of his ex-wife. Moments like this are far more effective than the attempts at comedy. Because, however, this is a comedy, the film doesn't quite work.
Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and filmed on location in Germany, the cinematography is unremarkable. The colors are muted and the visuals are not anything special, and the picture is at times grainy.
Guys & Balls is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo, all in German, with English subtitles. The sound is quite good, especially in the locker room scenes where one would expect to hear an echo, however even in those scenes, the sound is very good. There is not much of a soundtrack to speak of, but overall, the dialogue is clear. For some reason, even though the characters are speaking German, it's still nice to be able to hear what they are saying!
Aside from five trailers (one of them, ironically, for Summer Storm), there are no extras.
You can catch a far better film about the gay experience any weekend on the Logo channel. This one, despite the fact that it does indeed have its moments, is just okay.