© 2004 Ray Wong
I am now convinced that there are no original ideas in Hollywood, which is littered with movie remakes, recycled TV shows and comic-book flicks. CONNIE AND CARLA is the latest entry -- it unabashedly steals from SOME LIKE IT HOT, VICTOR/VICTORIA, and PRISCILLA - QUEEN OF THE DESERT. The result falls far short of these original classics.
Best friends Connie and Carla are two Chicago lounge singers struggling to make ends meet. After witnessing a mafia hit, they are on the run to Los Angeles, the most unlikely place for their hideout since there are no “musicals, dinner theaters and culture.”
Soon, they stumble into a West Hollywood gay bar and decide to try out for the headline act -- as drag queens. It is an opportunity from heaven. Not only are they paid to sing and dance, they will be incognito under the heavy makeup and ridiculous costumes in an obscure gay bar. Along the way, they make friends with a group of drag queens and develop a dinner theater featuring all of their fabulousness. The problem is, they are so good that they become a local hit, and eventually words get out. To complicate matters, Connie has fallen in love with Jeff, the straight brother of Peaches, one of the drag queens. Jeff is confused by his attraction to “Connie” while she cannot reveal her true identity to him. When the mafia finally finds them, Connie and Carla not only have to deal with the imminent threat, they also have to deal with the chaos and disappointment resulting from their deception.
The performance is generally adequate. Vardalo is likeable as Connie, although she lacks that comedic edge she displayed in MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING. Collette (THE HOURS), on the other hand, shows terrific comedic skills -- and by golly, does she look like a real drag queen. Duchovny (X-FILES) is wooden and unfunny as the straight man -- there is no chemistry between him and Vardalo to make us believe that he could fall for a “guy in drag.” The quartet of drag queens, however, is a hilarious group, played effectively by Logan (SAVING SILVERMAN), Mapa (PLAYING BY HEART), newcomer Kaiser, and Spinella (OUR TOWN). Spinella, in particular, shows true poignancy, weight and complexity as Robert/Peaches.
To say CONNIE AND CARLA is riddled with clichés is an understatement. The plot is super thin and the characters are mostly one-dimensional stereotypes. I am disappointed by the screenplay. At times, the film feels like a long, drawn out musical review and drag show. Granted, there are some genuinely funny jokes and a few sentimental moments (especially the subplot about the relationship between Jeff and Robert/Peaches). Mostly, it is simply irritating to see yet another musical number and if I have to hear “Mame” one more time, I may have to scream. Director Lembeck (SANTA CLAUSE 2) tries to make the best out of the material, giving us a silly, broad comedy; yet the direction and editing are still under par. In the end, CONNIE AND CARLA is a slight, irrelevant piece of fluff that one can take their grandmother to. There are a few laughs, but nothing more.
Stars: Nia Vardalos, Toni Collette, David Duchovny, Stephen Spinella, Alec Mapa, Chris Logan, Robert Kaiser, Ian Gomez, Debbie Reynolds
Director: Michael Lembeck
Writer: Nia Vardalos
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for gay content, sexual humor, drug and alcohol references
Script – 3
Performance – 6
Direction – 5
Cinematography – 5
Editing – 5
Production – 6
Total – 5.1 out of 10