By Jeff Walsh
"Were the World Mine" is the perfect wish fulfillment movie musical for gay youth once the only openly gay student at a homophobic all-boys school finds a magic potion that makes people fall in love with the first same-sex person they see. Hello there, straight crush…
The film, which opens in San Francisco, Berkeley and New York City this week (see the online schedule for future cities), is a joyous, heartwarming romp inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
In the movie, Timothy (Tanner Cohen) is the classic gay outcast: picked on at gym, bullied in the locker room, with a crush on an athlete that he knows will go unfulfilled. He's out to his mother, and has supportive friends, but that doesn't make him feel less alone.
The school is putting on the Shakespeare play, and Timothy is cast as Puck. He has musical, choreographed daydreams starring the same boys who pick on him. Things really get going when, inspired by the play, Timothy follows a recipe for Cupid's love potion that appears within the pages of his script and a purple flower from his dream follows him back to the real world. He quickly discovers that anyone sprayed by the flower falls in love with the first person of the same sex they see.
To be honest, I don't know I would have been as noble or as conflicted as Timothy had I been given such powers as a teenager, but the movie manages the delicate balance of giving Timothy's character an emotional arc that sustains through both the songs and the fanciful premise. Of course, all the guys that picked on Timothy are making out; the coach is hitting on the principal; and the town is performing gay marriages in no time.
The musical numbers are exciting and fun, with lyrics directly from Shakespeare, and the movie misses every opportunity to go off the rails musically, thematically, and visually. Instead, it just delivers a solid, assured experience from beginning to end. There are only a few big show-stopping musical numbers, going instead for music and lyrics segments that augment the story throughout.
Cohen plays a great role as Timothy, leading a flawless cast featuring Nathaniel David Becker, Ricky Goldman, and Zelda Williams. "Were the World Mine" began its life as the short film "Faeries," available as an iTunes download. Both were co-written by Tom Gustafson and Cory James Krueckeberg, who are a gay couple in real life.
If you're a fan of musicals, prepare to fall in love. If you just like sweet gay teen stories, you're covered here as well. Just want a bunch of hot shirtless guys dancing around? Yup, got it. But beyond all that, there is also a sweetness and an originality here that doesn't happen very often. Seek this movie out and treat yourself to a wonderful time.
Visit the film's website for more information.