If heterosexual lovers of juvenile sex comedies require regular helpings of “American Pie,” equal-opportunity exploitation entitles gay male auds to a steady diet of “Eating Out.” After co-writing the first two sequels to that crude but sometimes hilarious 2006 feature debut, series originator Q. Allan Brocka is back in the director’s chair for “Eating Out: Drama Camp,” the franchise’s fourth installment but its first to bypass minimal theatrical release and go straight (ahem) to cable. Pic begins airing July 25 on Logo, where it should kill time painlessly enough for undiscriminating viewers. A fifth pic is already in production.
The still-superior initial outing is barely relevant here, as its cast members are long gone (prior series regular Rebekah Kochan appears just briefly as fan fave Tiffani), the throughline now being Zack (Chris Salvatore) and Casey (Daniel Skelton). Nice guy Casey having won hunky Zack in “Eating Out: All You Can Eat” two years ago, the couple is now in a relationship slump, their sex life dormant as Zack’s roving eye grows more active.
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Along with aspiring director pal Jason (Garikayi Mutambirwa), the thespian duo gets accepted to Dick Dickey’s Drama Camp, run by the eponymous bitchy queen (Drew Droege). It’s just like regular summer camp, albeit with attendees well past the age of consent, just as prior “Eating Out” pics were like teen comedies, except with 20-to-30-ish hardbodies (which made them perfectly ordinary teen comedies, of course). Despite that legal maturity and a roll call primarily consisting of hot L.A. gym bunnies, killjoy Dickey insists on “no sexual misconduct” — a rule made to be broken if ever there was one.
Slender attempt at sustaining plot conflict finds the ebbing bond between Zack and Casey threatened by respective attractions to allegedly straight Benji (Aaron Milo) and definitely-not-straight Beau (Ronnie Kroell). Meanwhile, genuinely straight Jason is discomfited by his feelings for forthright transsexual Lilly (Harmony Santana of “Gun Hill Road”).
These hankerings are tested in rehearsals for updated Shakespeare scenes that conveniently require maximum grappling, allowing fake bad acting to briefly displace the pic’s occasional actual bad acting. Still, for the most part, what’s required of the players (at least the male ones) is that they look good shirtless — and on that level, the zero-body-fat casting is faultless. Climax is an exceedingly awkward onstage resolution of offstage tensions that turns into a public orgy.
In the script’s one refreshing note, for once the imperiled central couple doesn’t resist temptation. Like its immediate predecessor, “Drama Camp” gradually (if never entirely) downplays crass comedy for mild, earnest romantic drama — plus a little softcore sex.
At this point, Brocka and co-scribe Phillip J. Bartell’s writing process seems to consist of X number of cocktails providing X number of cocktail napkins on which to scribble wheezy single-entendres, pop culture references and flimsy excuses for disrobing. Subsidiary characters like Mink Stole’s returning Aunt Helen or mean girl Genevieve (Marikah Cunningham) vanish for long stretches, as if forgotten or simply unavailable — not that we miss them much. Celebrity casting on a budget means that several performers here are former reality-show contestants.
Given its own humble aspirations, “Drama Camp” isn’t all that bad; it just doesn’t try to be good. Assembly is passable.