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April 2004

By Julian Roman

Connie and Carla
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Director: Michael Lembeck
Producers: Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber and Jonathan Glickman
Screenwriter: Nia Vardalos
Cinematographer: Richard Greatrex
Composer: Randy Edelman
Cast: Nia Vardalos, Toni Collette, David Duchovny, Steven Spinella, Dash Mihok, & Debbie Reynolds


Connie and Carla can be summed up as Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette singing Broadway show tunes for ninety minutes. This is great if you're a big fan of Broadway show tunes. I don't despite the stuff, but I'm not lining up to see singing and dancing. The film starts off with a cute premise, then quickly falls into political correctness and silly drag queen humor. That's pretty disappointing because it could have been fairly clever. It just runs out of steam by the halfway point and plods on to a goofy, predictable ending. Nia Vardalos shot to fame in the mega-hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding. This film isn't nearly as funny or as charming.

Connie and Carla have been singing and dancing their entire life. The film opens up with them as children performing in the school cafeteria. Everyone makes fun of them and we are quickly transplanted to the present. Now they're performing in airport lounges. Their careers are going nowhere and they're forced to contend with boyfriends that want them to give up on their dreams. One night they witness the lounge boss, a drug dealer, get murdered. They panic and are seen by the hit men. They hightail it out of town before the gangsters can find them. The girls decide to hide in that den of silicone known as Los Angeles. They get gigs performing at a gay club and soon become a hit. The problem is that they're women, playing men, playing women. Everyone thinks that they're men dressed up in drag. Situations become even more complicated when Connie falls in love with Jeff (David Duchovny), the brother of her neighbor and fellow drag queen. He thinks she's a guy. Connie can't reveal her secret. The hit men are hot on their trail, so they have to remain undercover.

Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette actually pull off the drag bit. You have to suspend disbelief, but they're buried under a foot of make-up and make it look somewhat convincing. Implausibility kicks in when they're outside of the club. All of their fellow drag queens look normal, but they're always in costume. It wears thin, because nobody would fall for the disguises in a regular setting. David Duchovny plays it with a straight face, no pun intended, but it's obvious he's got a woman standing in front of him.

The story has a sappy sub-plot about acceptance. David Duchovny's character wants to rekindle the family ties with his gay brother. The tolerance theme is admirable, but it's taken too seriously and kills the charm of the film. They should have worked in more comedy instead of inundating us with political correctness. Combine that with the constant string of musical numbers and you get a recipe for annoyance.

The saving grace of the film is that Connie and Carla are likeable characters. Their personalities make the film bearable. Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette are good together, but needed a better script to showcase their acting talent. The movie just dies in the end and that's a waste. You get the feeling that they just wanted to sing and dance on screen. They do it well, but there's got to be a better movie surrounding the music.