The problems of coming out, intolerance, safe sex, and censorship are ticked off like a checklist in Better Than Chocolate, a well-meaning Canadian slice-of-life comedy that remains firmly planted in the creative rut currently plaguing gay cinema. Veteran director Anne Wheeler (Bye Bye Blues) observes a tight-knit lesbian community with some warmth and good humor, but rather than dealing honestly with their experiences, she retreats to lip-synching transsexual divas, violent homophobic thugs, cartoonish Christian prudes, and other hoary clichés. The action centers around Ten Percent Books, an alternative bookstore that provides the film's one original and urgent issue: The prejudicial use of Canada's strict anti-pornography laws to keep sexually explicit (and not always pornographic) gay and lesbian material from reaching shelves. But the owner's fight with border officials is set aside in favor of a sunny comic romance involving her employee, Karyn Dwyer, and free-spirited painter Christina Cox. When Dwyer's mother (Wendy Crewson) and brother (Kevin Mundy) unexpectedly arrive and move in with her, she and Cox go to extreme lengths to keep their budding affair a secret. Better Than Chocolate introduces at least a half-dozen other characters and subplots, but Wheeler and writer Peggy Thompson are more concerned with touching on important social issues than developing any of them. Their desperation shows when they bring the entire ensemble together for a ridiculous finale, which may or may not involve a fiery explosion.