Connie and Carla: These Divas are no Drag
It takes a certain amount of chutzpah for any man to deliberately avoid movies with names like “Kill Bill Vol. 2” and “The Punisher” in order to see “Connie and Carla.” Ah, the sacrifices a reviewer makes. Imagine the even greater dilemma of having to confess that I loved this “Laverne and Shirley” meets “Some Like It Hot” gender-bending, Broadway musical saluting, drag-queen-preening campy romp.
If the whole idea of cross-dressing is offensive to you, then by all means avoid writer-actress Nia Vardalos’ follow-up to her phenomenally successful “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” You can tell that Vardalos is just as passionate about the subject material here as she (as Connie) and Carla (Toni Colette) star as musical theater wannabes. The big difference in this film is the sheer number of uproarious moments, some cliched, some predictable, but most just genuinely silly in a good way that makes for nary a dull moment.
When Connie and Carla get mixed up in murder, they must leave their airport lounge gig and hide out in Los Angeles where they accidentally become stars in a drag queen dinner theater. Only problem is and yes its one of the elements that requires a bit of a stretch (not unlike “Yentl” which gets plenty of references) to believe that these two women can pass as two men dressing as women. Of course, with these two who can actually sing (Collette is a Tony winner), the theater becomes an instant hit. Working in West Hollywood, the duo nightly performs earnest send-ups of “Evita,” “South Pacific” “Cabaret,” “Oklahoma” and many others. Groundbreaking? No. Brassy, sassy fun? You go, girls.
You know there is going to be a straight guy who learns tolerance, in this case its David Duchovny who does a credible job as the long lost brother of one of the theater’s real drag queens. Through him the audience is taught acceptance and individualism, yada, yada, yada.
It’s heartwarming side works on some level, but the point here is that the girls just want to have fun. A love of theater would seem a prerequisite to enjoying “Connie and Carla.”
Seeing a Russian henchman who travels across the country to track down the girls belt out “Mame” since he’s seen it dozens of times is the kind of mindless fun you are either in the mood for or you are not. Amid all of this big wig, stuffed bra, mascara-crazy shenanigans, “Connie and Carla” has one of the best laugh-out-loud cocaine gags you’ll see for some time.
“Big Fat Greek Wedding’s” huge success was a surprise to me and to Hollywood. “Connie and Carla” won’t have the mass appeal and will make only a fraction of the dough-but this film I get. Just don’t tell my buds.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual humor drug references.