Connie And Carla

on April 16, 2004 by Sheri Linden
Betting on audiences' low humor thresholds and short memories, Nia Vardalos follows the monster indie hit "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" with another broad, feel-good script, this time borrowing shamelessly from other movies. For "Connie and Carla" she's ripped off the premise of "Some Like It Hot," minus Billy Wilder's delicious subversiveness, thrown in a "Victor/Victoria" double-drag twist, a soup├žon of "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," and put it all through a sieve to deliver a heartwarming lesson in tolerance and understanding.

Vardalos and Toni Collette play the title characters, singers of kitschy medleys for captive airport-lounge drinkers. After witnessing a mob hit (paging George Raft!), they flee Chicago and--in a supposed joke that couldn't be more tired or banal--go to Los Angeles because the gangsters would never think to look for such bright stars of the theater in that cultural void. Posing as male drag performers in a West Hollywood bar, they find a way to stay undercover while satisfying their love of the stage, and become local stars to boot. A transparent bid for poignancy posing as a subplot involves the reconciliation between a drag queen (Stephen Spinella) and his brother (David Duchovny). Latter finds himself inexplicably drawn to Connie (Vardalos), who can't reveal her true gender. A terrific bar scene between them offers an intriguing glimpse of what this film might have been with a lighter, edgier touch.

But the approach to most of the proceedings, laudable anti-botox spiels included, are as heavy as the false eyelashes the girls and boys wear. The musical numbers take on a numbing sameness after a while, despite the spirited singing by Vardalos and Collette. With a few exceptions, most of their scenes feature blah dialogue and overacting, while Spinella and Duchovny offer a bit of nuance in formulaic roles. As much as you want to like a movie that features a "special appearance" by Debbie Reynolds, "Connie" amounts to little more than an imitation of unacknowledged source material with a grafted-on message. Starring Nia Vardalos, Toni Collette, Stephen Spinella, Dash Mihok, David Duchovny and Debbie Reynolds. Directed by Michael Lembeck. Written by Nia Vardalos. Produced by Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber and Jonathan Glickman. A Universal release. Musical comedy. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual humor and drug references. Running time: 97 min

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