"The Curiosity of Chance" is a slick replay of the '80s-flashback coming-out seriocomedy, terrain already handled more feelingly in indies like "Edge of Seventeen" and "Dorian Blues." This version is smug and derivative without delivering any real laughs (or insight) despite its antic, polished surface.

“The Curiosity of Chance” is a slick replay of the ’80s-flashback coming-out seriocomedy, terrain already handled more feelingly in indies like “Edge of Seventeen” and “Dorian Blues.” This version is smug and derivative without delivering any real laughs (or insight) despite its antic, polished surface. Nonetheless, latter factor should get the high school tale easily passed into gay fests, ancillary sales and likely niche theatrical release.

Showing up in retro tophat, tails and cane for his first day at English-language Brickland Intl. High (“somewhere in Europe, somewhere in the ’80s”) is U.S. military-brat transfer student Chance Marquis (Tad Hilgenbrinck). He’s immediately targeted for bullying by jock kingpin Brad (Maxim Maes). On the upside, he’s befriended by fellow outcasts Hank (Pieter Van Nieuwenhuyze), an amateur photographer paranoid about nasty-smelling vice principal Smelker (Magali Uytterhaegen), and sour hipster girl Twyla (Aldevina da Silva).

Taken by latter to a nightclub where female impersonators abound, enraptured Chance drifts backstage. Inspired, he dresses to kill for a drag stage bow. When photos surface at school, his already dire social standing chills to subzero.

Next-door neighbor/science lab partner Levi (Brett Chukerman) provides the convenient apparently straight, body-of-death romantic interest. Less conveniently, he’s also a reluctant bud of obnoxious Brad’s as both fellow jock and guitarist in an amateur rock band.

Pic aims for the brash seriocomedy of early ’80s John Hughes teen pics, and succeeds on superficial terms. Belgium-shot pic sports zero sense of place, though savvy lensing, editing, design and other contributions supply a definite lift to the formulaic material.

Protag’s precocious dialogue and voiceover narration are arch rather than witty, and the moral lessons to be learned — mostly, “Be yourself” — arrive as a series of contrived script clicks rather than as an organic dramatic or psychological evolution.Lead thesps are notably well past adolescence, which would be fine if the pic didn’t occasionally insist on realistic emotional immediacy. Most do their jobs well within screenplay’s limits, especially Colleen Cameron, charming in a contrived role as Chance’s inexplicably Brit-accent-sporting little sister, and Chris Mulkey, who’s deft as their macho but well-intentioned widower dad.

The Curiosity Of Chance

Production

A Bigfoot Entertainment presentation of a Curiosity of Chance production.. Produced by Lisa Schahet. Executive producers, Kacy Andrews, Michael Gleissner. Directed, written by Russell P. Marleau.

Crew

Camera (color), Jack Messitt; editor, Mark Rees; music, Josef Peters, Willie Aron; music supervisor, Cathy Duncan; production designer, Kurt Rigolle; art director, Chris Lievens; set decorators, Inge Kerfs, Naomi Kerkohove; costume designer, Lorette Meus; sound (Dolby Digital), Johan Maertens; assistant director, Bill Kirk; casting, Joe Adams, Leen Verheilst; Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, March 13, 2007. (In Cinequest Film Festival.) Running time: 99 MIN.

With

Tad Hilgenbrinck, Aldevina da Silva, Pieter Van Nieuwenhuyze, Maxim Maes, Chris Mulkey, Colleen Cameron, Danny Calender, Magali Uytterhaegen, Brett Chukerman.

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