Although there was a time when only men were allowed to perform Shakespeare, writer-director Alan Brown's queer, all-male riff on Romeo and Juliet overconfidently shoehorns the star-crossed romance into a pandering coming-of-ager about sexual identity and equality. Transposed to a modern military academy where eight isolated cadets snicker their way through a study of the Bard's tragedy, Private Romeo tracks the budding affair between Sam (Seth Numrich as Romeo) and Glenn (Matt Doyle as the other Romeo). Gone are the family blood feuds, leaving just intolerance toward gays—in the guise of the co-conspiring friar and nurse—as a dramatic obstacle. Outside of the classroom, the boys continue speaking in Elizabethan dialect, heretically enunciated for horny double entendres ("The prick of noon"; "Make it a word and a blow") and frustratingly combined with contemporary asides ("Yo, you up for some hoops later?"). The hunky ensemble shares a fine chemistry, but Brown's stylistic choices lie somewhere between perverse and nonsensical. If Baz Luhrmann made his MTV-ready adaptation today, maybe he, too, would arbitrarily add YouTube lip-synching to Bishop Allen songs, but at least his desecration of the timeless source material would entertain.
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