Will the Eating Out films ever stop? Largely unknown to mainstream audiences, these gay comedies serve up a full menu of snarky humor, shirtless hunky guys, and quasi-softcore situations, all scripted and/or directed by one Q. Allan Brocka. Think of them as the Madea flicks with rock hard abs. Eating Out: Drama Camp arrives as the (gulp) fourth movie in the series, following Eating Out (2004), Eating Out: Sloppy Seconds (2006), and Eating Out: All You Can Eat (2009). And there's more: a fifth entry, Eating Out: The Opening Weekend, will be unleashed in 2012.
I have to confess that I haven't seen the previous Eating Out sequels, and my dim memory of the first installment was that of a threadbare, stilted slog of a movie with the requisite shirtless hot guys cavorting in what appeared to be someone's abandoned house in the desert. The characters were stereotypically shallow, hot men -- normally not a problem at all -- but shouldn't they be doing something besides standing around, hurling snarky jabs at each other? Luckily, Eating Out: Drama Camp has an actual plot, engaged by a diverse cast of characters, with several genuinely funny moments. The basic concept of hunky men getting into silly situations hasn't changed, but this time around it's handled with (at the very least) a level of semi-competence.
Drama Camp opens with the cute couple from the previous Eating Out, Zack (Chris Salvatore) and Casey (Daniel Skelton), filming a gory (but hot) gay slasher pic directed by their straight buddy Jason (Garikayi Mutambirwa). Although it's a cheap effort filmed in the home of dotty, horny Aunt Helen (John Waters vet Mink Stole), Jason believes the film is good enough to win acceptance in Dick Dickey's Drama Camp, a summer workshop for wannabe actors. The three are accepted in the camp, and sparks fly when Zack finds himself instantly attracted to fellow camper Benji (Aaron Milo). Benji feels the same way about Zack, but he pretends to be straight so he won't get between Zack and Casey.
The campers end up under the strict eye of Dick Dickey himself (Drew Doege), a high-strung Richard Simmons type who attributes his success to seven years of celibacy. Activities include having a counselor named Tiffani (Rebekah Kochan) demonstrate the finer points of fellatio simulation with a fist and mouth, and a kissing exercise with Dick. For the climactic drama competition, a steamy same-sex rewrite of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew is mounted with Jason directing Zack and Benji in the leads. He also casts sassy transgendered camper Lilly (Harmony Santana) in the temptress role, a move that infuriates spoiled rich girl camper Genevieve (Marikah Cunningham). Meanwhile, the suspicious Casey wants to expose Benji's secret and enlists the help of eager young camper Penny (Lilach Mendelovich). Penny sneaks into Benji's room and rubs a pair of his underwear with poison oak, but Zack finds the drawers first and erotically rubs them on himself. Zack and Benji find their lust for each other heating up during rehearsals, as straight Jason tries to understand his own growing attraction to the jaded Lilly. Zack and Casey attempt to sort out their relationship, Dick is seduced by a slutty male camper, and the final dramatic competition comes to a literal climax with various characters spontaneously coupling up onstage.
Eating Out: Drama Camp plays like an LGBT Meatballs, and it's brainless fun as long as your standards are set low. Q. Allan Brocka, back to directing after handing off the reigns to others for films #2 and 3, does work that is markedly improved over the clunky first outing. The script strikes a decent balance between melodrama and comedy, getting most of its laughs from current pop culture references such as Gossip Girl's third season, skeevy hookup phone app Grindr, and (in a particularly hilarious bit) dead actress Brittany Murphy. Like many low-budget films, the acting is all over the place. Chris Salvatore and Daniel Skelton make for a generically attractive pair, but their joke delivery is strangely amateurish and awkward (is it that hard to find hunky actors with good comic timing?). At least Aaron Milo is a hunk who can act. Some of Drama Camp's better moments come between Garikayi Mutambirwa and the startlingly natural Harmony Santana as Jason and Lilly. Brocka takes on a more muted, respectful tone for their scenes. It's an odd change of pace from the more typical, over-the-top campiness of the rest of the film, however. Overall, the film is casually enjoyable and never takes itself too seriously ("Sequels always suck," one guy explains).
Stick around for the post-end credits scene, by the way.
Shot digitally, the 16x9 anamorphic widescreen image is basically what would be expected of your average made-for-cable TV movie. The image generally has a pleasant, even tone, since much of the film was shot outdoors using non-direct sunlight.
The only audio option on Ariztical's screener DVD was the film's original stereo soundtrack, a decently mixed affair. No subtitles, although they may be included on the commercial edition.
A ten-minute making-of featurette and the "Drama Queen" music video (a painful Glee sendup) are included as extras, but neither were available for review. The only extra included on the screener DVD was the teaser trailer for Eating Out: The Opening Weekend (which, in all honesty, looks like a lot of fun).
As far as stupid sex comedies go, one can do far worse than Eating Out: Drama Camp. While it has issues on the pacing and casting fronts, the film is an enthusiastic and even sometimes sexy romp. Considering the rate of improvement over the original Eating Out, I'm looking forward to the eighth installment in this apparently never-ending series to sweep the Emmys, Golden Globes and Cable ACE awards. Recommended.
Matt Hinrichs is a designer, artist, film critic and dilettante-of-all-trades in Phoenix, Arizona. 4 Color Cowboy is his repository of Western-kitsch imagery, while other films he's seen are logged at Letterboxd. He also welcomes friends on Twitter @4colorcowboy.