Connie and Carla

After the amazing success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it was pretty obvious that Nia Vardalos could do whatever she wanted for her next project. Not including, of course, the television series adaptation, which died a quick and miserable death. What people tend to forget is that while Greek Wedding was amusing, it was a rehash of basic formulas that have been played to death in other movies. It was different because of Vardalos' twist of setting it smack in the middle of Greek culture. To that end, it could be interpreted as offensive, but it was more Vardalos poking fun at herself, so it didn't seem to matter that much. Connie and Carla is a completely different story. It has the same feel-good vibe to it, yet has some downright backward stereotypes of gay men (at least it doesn't go as low as Boat Trip). Apparently, all the gay men in West Hollywood are extremely effeminate, love show tunes, and act very flamboyantly.

Connie and Carla begins with the titular characters singing to an empty Midwestern airport lounge. This would be original, except that another recent film, Anything But Love did the exact same thing. Vardalos in all likelihood did not rip-off the scene, but the fact that it mirrors another film shows how unoriginal the concept is. Connie (Vardalos, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Meet Prince Charming) and Carla (Toni Collette, Japanese Story, The Hours) are childhood friends trying to live off their love of show tunes and dinner theater. It is not a lucrative business opportunity, which explains why they sing in an airport. After witnessing a mob hit, they go into hiding in Los Angeles, where they figure nobody will find them (according to the film, there's no culture there). To find work, they disguise themselves as drag queens and quickly begin gaining popularity as performers in a local bar. So they are women dressed as men dressed as women. The big monkey wrench is that soon, Connie begins falling for Jeff (David Duchovny, Full Frontal, Zoolander), the brother of one her newfound GAY friends. She cannot reveal she is a woman, and he finds himself strangely attracted to her.

Eventually, their fame gets greater, which increases the danger of them being discovered. Connie's feelings for Jeff increase, as does their mutual confusion, and Connie and Carla both feel more frustration at not being able to be themselves. Oh, what are two women dressed as men dressed as women to do? Apparently run around even more until the movie comes to its conclusion. There is no real point to Connie and Carla; it feels like a concept that sounded good as an idea, but looks bad as a full movie. Director Michael Lembeck (The Santa Clause 2) doesn't do anything of interest except keep everything from falling completely apart. Everything stars with the two main characters. Yes, they are dreamers who love to sing and dance, but they sure are na´ve. Worse, the film portrays them as annoying and shrill, so they quickly get on the nerves of anybody watching. And, the romance between Duchovny and Vardalos fizzles due to a lack of meaningful chemistry.

Still, there is a moral, which is that people should accept others just the way they are. This ties into a subplot between Jeff's brother Robert (Stephen Spinella, Bubble Boy, Cradle Will Rock), who is estranged from their family. Robert also sings the bar that Connie and Carla do. It's this sappy, nice moral that ensures that the film is not patently offensive, yet there is something profoundly strange about a film that preaches acceptance while parading tired stereotypes of gay men across the screen. It is great to see Vardalos and Collette actually sing as opposed to lip-sycing to some other voice. Vardalos has yet to prove her chops as an actor. Collette has proven time and time again that she is fantastic, so it's sad to have to watch her in something like Connie and Carla.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 38 minutes, Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual humor, and drug references.

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