Most people who were bullied in high school fantasize about becoming stunningly successful and shaming their tormentors by living their best lives. But in the new Freeform rom-com The Thing About Harry, leading man Sam (Jake Borelli) ends up reconnecting with his bully Harry (newcomer Niko Terho) and discovering that Harry teased him mercilessly when they were teenagers out of envy and fear. After getting to know each other on a road trip back home, the two college students become friends and eventually fall in love on a twisty path filled with will-they-or-won't-they tension.
"The truth is, I admired you," Harry confesses in the romantic made-for-TV movie that premieres Saturday, Feb. 15 over Valentine's Day weekend. "You were out in Liberty, Missouri. Me? I was just too scared. That's why I made fun of you. You know that, right?"
Just so we're clear, not only is Harry ridiculously sexy and pansexual, but he's able to express himself in ways that help put past pains in perspective. Sounds like a dream. There is suspension of disbelief and then there is this movie. Wild fantasies aside, writer and director Peter Paige (who also has a small role as Sam's wise roommate, Casey) clearly had a blast digging into all the tropes from our favorite heteronormative romantic comedies and molding them so that they fit this unlikely but charming gay love story. The name "Harry" (Get it? When Harry Met Sally?) is even in the title. Sometimes those chestnuts work and sometimes they don't.
What ultimately works best in The Thing About Harry, even when the story feels undercooked, is the chemistry between the actors. For instance, when Sam and Harry flirtatiously smile at each other just a little too long or share inside jokes, it's undeniable that these two have a deep connection that is thrilling to watch. That said, Sam also has sweet and believable exchanges with his best friend Stasia (Britt Baron), who lovingly calls him "Sam-wich," and his roommate Casey, the latter of whom gives off strong male Bonnie Hunt vibes.
Paige also weaved in a few other peppy pop culture touches like an updated cover of Judy Garland's "I'm Just Mad About Harry" and art history trivia about French painter John Singer Sargent. There's even a quick cameo from Queer Eye star Karamo Brown. He plays Sam's older and more established boyfriend, a relationship distinction that is just as brief as Brown's appearance. Sadly, this is a recurring issue in The Thing About Harry; three different characters have black love interests, none of whom get very many lines or screen time. In that way, the flick is sort of like The Bachelor.
The Thing About Harry also fails the Bechdel test as the only prominent woman in Sam's life is Stasia and she apparently doesn't know or talk to any other women. To be fair, these same gender and racial deficiencies can be found throughout a number of rom-coms, but in a movie that seemingly tries to be more representative and inclusive, such shortcomings could've been avoided.
Thankfully, The Thing About Harry gets more right than it gets wrong and will give romantics the weekend fodder they need to laugh, cry, and root for Sam and Harry on the road to love. And if your bully from high school suddenly sends you a friend request, he or she is probably watching the same movie too.
TV Guide Rating: 3.5/5
The Thing About Harry premieres Saturday, Feb. 15 at 8/7c on Freeform.