Second Nature (2017) Review
Gender switching comedy comes with a twist.
Second Nature is a 2017 comedy about a woman and man who compete in an unusual race for mayor when gender roles magically reverse.
The identity swap craze ran like a wildfire in movies a few decades ago and by all accounts would seem to have totally run dry. Every once in awhile though, another comes along to test the waters, though few offer much more than retreads of the same gender jokes so it’s a little refreshing to see Michael Cross take his latest film Second Nature in a new direction. While it might not have all the bite it should, it’s nonetheless a terrific showcase for its leads.
After the Mayor of Louisberg drives off a cliff while getting a bit of a treat from a young woman with her head in his lap, the town is in need of a new one, putting real estate agent Bret Johnson (Sam Huntington) in the running, he an overbearing, sexist alpha male who beds girls whose names he can’t remember and holds his campaign rally at ‘Honkers’, a restaurant just like the one you’re thinking. He’s up against Amanda (Collette Wolfe), a seller at his agency, a young woman with some experience at losing elections. Meanwhile, Amanda’s grandmother Estelle (Carolyn Cox) gives her a gift, a small mirror once buried in a time capsule that when Amanda and Bret tangle in a storeroom, has them waking up the next day where the entire town’s gender roles have reversed. Now the two have to navigate the changes in ‘Ellensberg’ where men are sexualized and women have been in power since President Martha Washington.
There’s no denying a pretty heavy expectation sits on the front step of Second Nature, one where we are fairly confident where it’s going, especially with it’s early setup; he’s gonna become a woman and she the man. However, the filmmakers take a chance and avoid that temptation, instead, opening the story up to wider opportunities, even if a few stumble in execution. The film relies heavily initially on building the gag, changing things like ‘Honkers’ to ‘Peckers’, complete with men in skimpy outfits who fight off woman, to some more clever games of wordplay, such as women construction workers standing beside a ‘Woman-Hole’. Give it a second. Second Nature is a very adult story, spouting profanity all through it, though often in smart ways, switching body part euphemisms to earn some laughs (“Jam out with your clam out”). It rightfully avoids explaining it all, simply letting the plot advance.
In many ways, Second Nature is right for the times, though it’s less interested in being progressive than in sticking to its simple story and myriad jokes, of which there are plenty. This is a comedy so it avoids chances to tackle darker issues about how damaging harassment really is, instead keeping most of the groping and such propped up for laughs (a woman gets peppered sprayed for slapping a man’s backside). The film can’t really be blamed for sticking to its guns in terms of being a light-hearted experience. This isn’t about the larger conflicts but the small ones between these two characters.
Thankfully, no matter some lulls in the script, it’s all held together by two very strong performances from Huntington and Wolfe who are committed right from frame one. They have great chemistry and they effortlessly keep the film clicking along for its short 75 minutes, making them the best reason to watch this R-rated comedy. While Second Nature might lack edge and makes a conscious choice to be light, it is plenty fun, hopefully inspiring some questions that need answers.
Second Nature (2017) Review
Movie description: Second Nature is a 2017 comedy about a woman and man who compete in an unusual race for mayor when gender roles magically reverse.
Director(s): Michael Cross
Actor(s): Collette Wolfe, Sam Huntington, Carollani Sandberg