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With: Nia Vardalos, Toni Collette, David Duchovny, Stephen Spinella, Dash Mihok
Written by: Nia Vardalos
Directed by: Michael Lembeck
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual humor and drug references
Running Time: 98
Date: 04/13/2004

Connie and Carla (2004)

1/2 Star (out of 4)

Enter the Drag

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

You need at least a glancing tolerance for bad musicals -- for getting camp value out of the likes of "Mame," "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Oklahoma!" -- to make it through the very broad Connie and Carla without wincing. Even then it's a struggle.

Nia Vardalos, creator of the irresistibly charming My Big Fat Greek Wedding, reprises her dual screenwriter/actress role for this new film. Only this time she's stepped into Billy Wilder territory and she's way out of her league. Director Michael Lembeck, a former sitcom man previously responsible for The Santa Clause 2, doesn't help.

Based loosely on Wilder's Some Like It Hot and a hundred withered old jokes, two hapless musicians, Connie (Vardalos) and Carla (Toni Collette), accidentally witness a gangland slaying and hit the road, disguising themselves -- and performing as -- members of the opposite sex.

Hiding out in L.A. they go dancing in a club called the Handlebar and fail to notice that its clientele is primarily gay. Eventually they land a job there as drag queen singers. Fortunately Vardalos and Collette really sing, and they're not bad -- even if the songs are.

Connie falls for a straight nice guy Jeff (David Duchovny) who doesn't know she's a woman. He's just there to come to terms with the fact that his long lost brother (Stephen Spinella) is a drag queen -- who also works at the club and hangs out with his cohorts there.

Our screenwriter fails to invoke much about the life or behavior of a drag queen -- as seen to much better effect in the wonderful The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert -- and so these supporting characters come off as flat, whiny and insulting.

While slinging their tone-deaf dialogue around, we never really grasp Connie and Carla's friendship either. Their behavior is so inconsistent that we don't really know who they are. At times they appear smart, choosing L.A. to hide out in because of its lack of culture. But at other times, they fail to grasp even the most obvious aspects of L.A.'s personality and stick out like sore thumbs, which is pretty dim behavior from characters trying to hide from the mob.

Worse, while Connie is chasing after Jeff, poor Carla simply disappears. It's a shame to cast the lovely, vibrant Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense) and then send her to the curb half way through the movie. It would have been fun to see her do one of the interlopers from Some Like it Hot like Tony Curtis' Shell Oil man or Joe E. Brown's love-struck loon? It's far better to steal from the best than to wallow in this dismal failure.

DVD Details: I couldn't bring myself to watch this garbage again on home video, but I have to imagine that it's even worse at home without the support of an audience. The DVD comes with deleted scenes, extended musical scenes, outtakes, commentary by Vardalos and Lembeck, a featurette and more.

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