I nearly didn’t see “Chick Magnets,” the new movie so locally made that Viewmont High and Robintino’s both make a guest appearance. The movie is only playing at Megaplex theaters, and from the trailers I thought it was nothing more than yet another painfully awkward “Napoleon Dynamite” knockoff. I feel that there are more than enough of those already in the world, and was less than enthused.
But oh, what I would have missed. Though it does indeed explore the secret miseries and humor of what it’s like to be young and know just how desperately uncool you are, “Chick Magnets” is in fact a gentle, sweet, surprisingly hilarious and impossibly endearing movie that I couldn’t help but fall in love with. It has its share of painful awkwardness and movie-making growing pains, but it's also as hopeful, honest and secretly wonderful as the three young men at its center.
It’s those guys, three longtime friends who are there for each other even when they don’t always know why, that really make the movie work. Dashiell Wolf handles the motherload of “Napoleon”-like eccentricity as Fitch, who thinks he’s way more together than he really is but is as genuine a friend as anyone could hope for. Jason K. Wixom is Ryan, who imbues the standard “Yeah, man” role with a surprising sweetness.
The best thing about the movie, however, is Josh Putnam as Truman. He’s painfully aware of just how awkward he and his friends are, a knowledge that comes out in a dry humor that had me laughing before I even realized I was doing it. He’s also self-depreciating, perpetually slightly exasperated and gently kind, and I found myself becoming more and more fond of him as the movie passed.
The basic plot structure is standard “boy crushes on dream girl, boy realizes he really belongs with his female best friend,” but the easy, tender interplay between Putnam and Tatum Langton, who plays his longtime friend Ari, is lovely and believable enough that is seems completely right that they fall for each other. A subplot with Truman’s family trauma first seems a little harsh, but even that ends up blending into something beautiful despite its broken pieces.
True, the dialogue can get a little speech-like at times, and some of the changes of heart are a little more pat than I might have hoped for. But the sheer likeability of the leads and the immersive, embracing flow of the movie somehow makes up for any “after-school special” moments. The number of stars I was planning to give the movie kept inching upward as every minute passed onscreen, and by the end I was seriously and actively rooting for success and happiness all around. I’d fallen in love with these guys, and I wanted the world to feel the same way about them I did.
Rating: Three stars
PG for the suggestion of violence