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CONNIE AND CARLA (PG-13) (2004)

Universal Studios

Official Site

Director: Michael Lembeck

Producers: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum

Written by: Nia Vardalos

Cast: Nia Vardalos, Toni Collette, David Duchovny, Stephen Spinella, Nick Sandow, Dash Mihok, Robert John Burke, Boris McGiver

Rating:

Although it begins like a cheesy vaudeville act, Connie And Carla quickly gains speed and ends the race as a truly enjoyable film. It tends to go heavy on the “everybody is different/do unto others/don’t judge a book by its cover” theme, but if that’s the worst I can really say about a movie, then either I’m losing my touch or it’s not that bad.

Connie And Carla opens with two slightly pathetic middle-school girls singing their hearts out to a group of snickering peers. Cut to 20 years later, and the same slightly pathetic girls are performing for an equally unreceptive audience at the local airport. Connie (Vardalos) and Carla (Collette) are two aspiring cabaret singers who dream of the day they’ll make it big in bonafide dinner-theater. Unfortunately, no one else seems that supportive, including Carla’s boyfriend Mikey (Sandow) and Connie’s ex-boyfriend Al (Spinella). The catalytic moment in this stagnant scenario occurs the girls witness a murder by local coke dealer Rudy (Mihok) and must flee for their lives. After Carla suggests all the obvious cabaret hotspots of the country where they can make a living, Connie comes to the decision that they need to go someplace without dinner-theater, someplace, in effect, “totally without culture.” That’s right, L.A.—bah-dum-bump!

Despite their initial intentions of getting a “real” job, the girls cannot resist their passion for sparkly costumes and Broadway tunes. Witnessing a truly over-the-top drag performance at a local gay bar, Connie and Carla devise a plan to disguise themselves as drag queens and sing their hearts out. Everything seems to be going swimmingly until Connie suddenly falls for her co-worker Roger’s (Burk) straight brother Jeff (Duchovny). But, oops, he thinks she’s a man! Thaaat could be a problem. Between obsessive murderers, transgendered love triangles, and drag queen fame, Connie and Carla have more on their plate than a pre-TrimSpa Anna Nicole Smith at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Connie And Carla is like an odd mixture of Sister Act, To Wong Fu, and about a million Broadway musicals. Yeah, like I said, an odd mix. If you’re not a fan of Judy Garland or Debbie Reynolds, I’d definitely suggest opting for another movie, as medley after medley pervades the film. It also tends to echo certain characters and tones of Vardalos’ firstborn brainchild My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Just as in that earlier work, the comedy tends to ebb and flow, alternating between really cornball and really damn funny. At first the film jerked along like a new driver with a standard-shift, but once it found its groove, the humor increased significantly.

The real draw of the movie is Nia Vardalos herself, whose earnest antics and girl-next-door charm make her the next Sandra Bullock. Or at least the Greek Sandra Bullock. She’s still finding her sea legs as a writer, but her acting skills are right on. I look forward to seeing how her work will progress in the next few years. In this particular instance, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a borderline “chick flick,” but an enjoyable one.

— Emily Younger

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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