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Review: 'Geography Club' gets a bit lost

'Geography Club,' based on Brent Hartinger's novel, quickly loses its way as it tells a coming-of-age tale about closeted teens. It does find a footing, thankfully, and is constructive.

By Gary Goldstein

4:30 PM EST, November 21, 2013

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Sweet, slight and frequently familiar, "Geography Club," based on Brent Hartinger's novel about sexual identity among suburban teens, often feels as if it's circling its expiration date.

As the would-be heart of the movie, the burgeoning romance between two attractive, closeted 16-year-olds — low-key good guy Russell (Cameron Deane Stewart) and Goodkind High's star quarterback, Kevin (Justin Deeley) — had great potential to take this largely pie-in-the-sky story to some honest, compelling and frankly sexy places. Stewart and Deeley are appealing, natural actors with convincing chemistry.

Unfortunately, the script by Edmund Entin, whose twin brother, Gary, directed, focuses more on Russell's journey as a member of Goodkind's newly formed Geography Club, which is actually a front for a secret gay and lesbian support group. The film also spends too much of its brief running time on Russell's friendship with hefty, clueless straight guy Gunnar (Andrew Caldwell) and a series of complications that awkwardly pair off Russell with a pretty, hot-to-trot classmate (Meaghan Martin). 

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Events in the movie's choppily edited first half move too quickly and easily (how Russell lands on the school football team is a particular stretch). Pacing improves as things progress, and there are several warm moments along the way, including a nice bit with Scott Bakula and Marin Hinkle and as Kevin's open-minded parents. However, the film's ending takes a risk that, while credible, proves dramatically — and romantically — unsatisfying.

Still, when it comes to constructive gay-themed material aimed at teens, perhaps half a loaf remains better than none.

"Geography Club." MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic material involving sexuality and bullying, sexual content including references, language and teen drinking. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills. Also available on VOD. 

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