Published Dec 21, 2020Can you remember the last time when the "battle of the sexes" formula for a comedy felt in vogue or even felt relatively fresh? One's mind drifts to the filthy frat hijinks of Nicholas Stoller's Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising in 2016, but that was a deliberate throwback and updating to the Porky's era of raunchy teen comedies which, while juvenile, at least understood the outdated aspects of the Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus binary treatment of gender. The unfortunately titled Boys vs. Girls never got the memo we are living in the third decade of the 21st century, and decided to perpetuate the "battle of the sexes" as straight and as sincerely as possible.
Writer-director Michael Stasko's film is fundamentally confused over a lot of things, but primarily it is stuck on who its audience is for such an anachronistic idea like "girls rule, boys drool" (which I would be remiss not to mention is actual dialogue in this film). The 1990-set story of a summer camp going co-ed for the first year ever, and the male counsellors squaring off against the female counsellors, seems like prime comedic fare for a kid's film, where your audience are the type to believe the opposite sex are riddled with "cooties" and must be avoided at all costs. However, Boys vs. Girls is particularly foul-mouthed and sexually charged where its 30-somethings-playing-teenagers cast curse up a blue streak and lust after one another in between the noted "bros before hoes" ethos (again, another line of dialogue).
The central plot is a tired retread of the summer camp film formula from 40 years ago: the male counsellors challenge the female counsellors to a variation of the summer games, and whichever gender loses cannot reapply to be a counsellor next year. That's all well and good and has the potential to be funny, but Stasko does not seem entirely interested in realizing the plot's potential. The characters are paper-thin and usually reduced to a single character trait (the goth, the airhead, the overweight party animal, the hip-hop enthusiast, etc.), and their competition rarely seems antagonistic or particularly motivated despite being the thrust of the film. The amateur cast seems wooden and disinterested, the stakes are never properly emphasized, and the juvenile attempts at comedy feeling clunky and forced out of anybody who is not a glorified supporting actor, like Colin Mochrie and Kevin McDonald. Boys vs. Girls eventually abandons its own plot entirely, instead aiming for a "save the camp from corporate takeover" climax.
The film is a mess, and feels so muddled concerning its identity, audience and overall shoddy execution that it feels like a stealth anti-comedy satirizing those Porky's-esque films of yesteryear. Taken at face value, Boys vs. Girls is in desperate need of some actual edge to its childish attempts at comedy.
Your enjoyment may vary on a lot of those antiquated summer camp films or battle-of-the-sexes comedies, but at least they had their own time and place. The only thing interesting about a film like Boys vs. Girls is that it actually exists today. (The Dot Film Company)