By Phil Hall | September 22, 2005

And yet another entry in the genre of coming-of-age/coming-out comedies, Tennyson Bardwell’s “Dorian Blues” focuses on high schooler Dorian Lagatos (Michael McMillian), who comes to the early conclusion that he is gay. Intelligent family support is nil: Dorian’s dad is a loudmouth bully, his mother is a clueless dolt, and his well-meaning brother is sympathetic to the point that he tries to tutor Dorian in how to think and act like a heterosexual. Various guidance counselors, strippers and classroom ruffians influence Dorian to ultimately be honest with himself.

“Dorian Blues” has a terrible air of been-there/done-that, with the various indignities and epiphanies which befall the young heroes of this particular genre. It will come as absolutely no surprise that Dorian permanently removes the hinges from his closet door, but the journey out becomes tiresome too quickly. Bardwell cannot resist grabbing for shtick and smart alecky remarks when sensitivity or sincerity would work better. As a result, the movie is just a wafer-thin story crushed beneath an endless skein of groan-inducing jokes and exaggerated caricature behavior (it’s like a late-career Bob Hope movie refashioned for contemporary gay youth).

It also might not be a bad idea to cast high school movies with teenage actors. Michael McMillian as Dorian and Lea Coco as his brother as clearly too old for their roles, which throws the film out of sync. Coco is actually somewhat endearing as the well-meaning dumb jock, overcoming the stereotypical limitations of the concept with a degree of good-natured charm, but McMillian cannot make magic with his undercooked character and comes across as a priggish bore.

“Dorian Blues” picked up several awards on the gay film festival circuit. If muck like this is considered award-worthy, perhaps it’s time for those fests to become much more selective in their programming or to fold up shop due to lack of quality presentations.

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