EATING OUT — * — Scott Lunsford, Emily Stiles, Ryan Carnes; not rated, probable R (sex, vulgarity, profanity, nudity, drugs, violence).

Most of the jokes and pop-culture references in "Eating Out" are so inside that you may wonder if the filmmakers got all of them.

This supposed romantic comedy is obviously targeted to a specific (gay) audience. But it's too formulaic, much too obvious and features some of the most unpleasant characters in recent film history.

That includes the main character, Caleb (Scott Lunsford), an Arizona college student who's just been dumped by his girlfriend (Rebekah Kochan) because she didn't think he was exciting enough. So in a rather unlikely turn, he's gone to his gay roommate Kyle (former "American Idol" contestant Jim Verraros) for advice.

To his surprise, the desperate Caleb agrees to go along with Kyle's plan of pretending to be gay — so he can woo Gwen (Emily Stiles), a single girl with a track record of falling for gay men. But instead Caleb catches the eye of Gwen's best friend, Marc (Ryan Carnes), who asks him out. Still believing in the merits of the scheme, Caleb agrees to go on with him and it then becomes a question of how far he's willing to go to impress Gwen.

Writer/director Q. Allan Brocka keeps placing his characters in morally uncomfortable situations and then keeps taking the easy way out. And the film's rather pathetic attempts at humor fall completely flat.

But what makes the film insufferable is that its characters are such self-involved jerks. That and the all-over-the-map performances, which range from wooden (Lunsford) to shrill and over-the-top (Stiles).

"Eating Out" is not rated but would probably receive an R for scenes of simulated sex, and other sexual contact (gay and straight), use of crude sexual slang terms and explicit sex talk, frequent use of strong sexual profanity, some brief, full male nudity, drug references, and some sexual violence. Running time: 84 minutes.