This German coming-out/coming-of-age film is set in—are you ready?—a summer camp for rowers. There's consequently a decent amount of well-toned young Aryan male upper-body flesh

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Summer Storm

Opens at Harvard Exit, Fri., March 31. Rated R. 98 minutes.

This German coming-out/coming-of-age film is set in—are you ready?—a summer camp for rowers. There's consequently a decent amount of well-toned young Aryan male upper-body flesh on display, though not as much, or as pruriently, as you might expect; director Marco Kreuzpaintner commendably resists the temptation to make an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog on celluloid.

He also resists a wish-fulfillment fantasy about the sexual convertibility of cute straight boys. In fact, the nearest thing Storm has to a villain is Malte (Hanno Koffler), the swaggering, manipulative, predatory captain of an all-gay rowing team, who's convinced he's irresistible even to hunky homophobes. The central plot—confused teenager Tobi (Robert Stadlober) struggles with a crush on his straight pal Achim (Kostja Ullmann)—gets a D-minus for originality, but everything's handled with a fairly light, cliché-avoiding touch. The arrival at the camp of the comfortably out gay team both encourages and agonizes Tobi. He meets a nice kid, Leo (Marlon Kittel), who helps him get over Achim, but it's not as though the noble gay cavalry's riding in to rescue our hero from the evil oppressive straights. The homophobe on Tobi's team is just a little dense and skittish rather than psychopathic (and he's not paranoid: Malte actually is trying to seduce him). Achim's girlfriend, Sandra, and her teammate, Anke, who has a complicating crush on Tobi, are drawn sympathetically—so sympathetically you'd be just as happy if Tobi decided to give poor lovely Anke (Alicja Bachleda-Curu) a chance. Everyone's nice-looking, but not implausibly gorgeous. And Tobi's first sexual experiment with the cherubic Leo is staged with a convincing level of teen lust; it's not all, you know, lyrical 'n' shit.

I could've done with less gooey soundtrack music and more humor. The way the screenplay keeps throwing these hormonal teens into randy situations—horseplay in the showers, mouth-to-mouth CPR class, lotion applied to sunburned shoulders—would have been more fun as a self-aware running gag. But Kreuzpaintner avoids so many dopey sensitive-gay-movie pitfalls that Storm should be counted a smart, solid success.

 
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