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Gay Games

(This story was published in 2006).

REVIEW

"Summer Storm" is the kind of film for those who like fairy tales where the gay guys are all hot and self-confident, and it's their straight counterparts who are uncertain, confused and hesitant.

A popular German movie that is making its U.S. debut in theaters and on later DVD, 'Summer Storm" (directed by Marco Kreuzpaintner) is 98 minutes of cotton candy – sweet, tasty and ultimately of little nutritional value. But even the strictest diet is allowed some sugar now and then.

The plot is familiar to a hundred teen flicks, with a twist: Tobi (Robert Stadlober) and Achim (Kostja Ullman) are best friends in Bavaria. They row together, work out together (in one early scene, Tobi pins Achim (see photo) during a playful wrestling match as we wait to see what happens next) and are inseparable. Unrequited love ensues, except here it's Tobi wanting Achim, but his fear and doubts keep him from telling him. Achim loves Tobi (but only fraternally) and only has eyes for fellow rower Sandra (Miriam Morgenstern), while the beautiful Anke (Alicja Bachleda-Curus) wants Tobi in the worst way. Danger ahead!

Our gang, along with their teammates, head out to a summer camp for rowers where a big competition is to be held. The dad of one of the rowers Georg or "Schorsi" (Tristano Casanova) promises his buy the team new boats if they can win the race for the first time, which sets up one of the subplots.

Once in camp, everyone is surprised by the appearance of Queerstroke, an all-gay team from Berlin. This is where the fairy tale begins –- the Queerstroke rowers are unlike any gay teens we've seen portrayed. They are ultra self-confident jocks (equally adept in a boat or a kitchen), whose studly leader Malte (Hanno Koffler) makes no bones of hitting on Tobi's team, with the homophobic (in a cartoonish way) Georg being singled out. Malte is convinced he can turn any straight guy.

As Tobi is exposed to Queerstroke, he begins to realize some things and it leads to a predictable self-revelation. A big thunderstorm ensues, plus a fight, secrets are revealed and then the climatic race (which has a twist) occurs. It all plays like a German after-school special.

This is not to say "Summer Storm" doesn’t have its charms. For one, the actors are almost universally hot-looking, and shirtless in many scenes (though I doubt there's a chest hair among them). For the lesbians, the babes aren't bad either. It's all kind of like an extended A&F video but with better music.

Enjoy "Summer Storm" for the visuals and some pretty good acting. Stadlober's Tobi hits all the right notes of coming-out angst and his makeout scene with Leo (Marlon Kittel), one of the Queerstrokes, is both sweet and sexy.

It's hard, though, not to ignore the absurdity underlying the basic plot. I can’t imagine that even in Germany, an all-gay team of teen jocks would be that self-assured and forward. Had a real-life Malte tried to seduce Georg, I suspect a baseball bat or knife would have been pulled out with tragic consequences. In "Summer Storm," Georg runs off into the woods like he's just seen a mouse. In addition, the big fight scene between the gays and straights looks more like a pillow fight at a slumber party.

No matter – "Summer Storm" is a nice date film if you just want to cuddle and not tax your brain; in this way, it's the anti-"Brokeback Mountain." Or go see it with a group of friends, and then argue over which young German jock was hotter. A little eye candy never hurt anyone and even gays are entitled to their fairy tales.