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Connie and Carla

  Connie and Carla
"American Idol" takes an unfortunate turn.

© 2004, Universal
All Rights Reserved

As two wannabe dinner theater stars, Connie (Nia Vardalos) and Carla (Toni Collette) are stuck in a Midwest airport lounge running through hits from "Evita" and "Jesus Christ Superstar." After witnessing a mob hit on their boss, the two bolt out of town, heading for the one place that doesn't know a thing about culture: Los Angeles. Their quest for employment leads them to a cabaret for drag queens. Looking to elude the killers, the duo pose as men posing as queens and score a job. Soon enough, Connie and Carla's act becomes the toast of the town, complicating their lives even further with all the attention.

If "Connie and Carla" (IMDb listing) sounds a little familiar, that's because it's almost a full-on remake of the 1959 comedy classic, "Some Like It Hot." Now, before the lawyers get involved, writer/star Nia Vardalos keeps the atmosphere fluffy and the comedy screwball for the most part, which pays lovely tribute to Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond's creation. Creative bankruptcy? Sure. But "Connie and Carla" delivers the laughs and the charisma with undeniable ease.

If she didn't drop her goblet of superstardom with the rancid, unpardonable "My Big Fat Greek Life" television show last year, more heat would be on Nia Vardalos to equal the success of her runaway sleeper smash, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." "Connie" is the dreaded follow-up film, and much to my surprise, Vardalos isn't just a one-hit wonder. "Connie" is a sillyfest that captures the dying spirit of farcical comedy without losing itself in the process. Vardalos writes very big, which complements her performance, which gets even bigger at times during the film. I really enjoyed the manic spirit the film achieves every 15 minutes. Vardalos does get bogged down in trying to grow a heart, tossing in a "tolerance" message that seems out of her league of writing. But she quickly regains composure with Connie and Carla's musical numbers, and the placement of an excellent cocaine gag that hasn't been funny in film for decades now.

Co-star Toni Collette, who forms a perfect pair with Vardalos, is afforded an opening to show off her considerable pipes. Collette is a chameleon, and it's fabulous to watch her vamp it up as a queen, complete with gaudy make-up and a faux husky voice. Co-star David Duchovny is also a welcome presence, saddled with the lowly "I'm the audience" role as the nervous brother of one of the cabaret backup singers (as well as Vardalos' improbable love interest), but finding unique dry-wit Duchovnyisms to play and score laughs with. He's a hoot.

The good times in "Connie" extend to a special Hollywood legend guest star, and to a grand finale of slapstick between the thugs and the queens. Even if she commits grand-theft-movie, Vardalos also showcases a colorful comic attitude, welcome in the age of irony.

Filmfodder Grade: B

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