Vardalos likes it Hot
Whether intentional or not Nia Vardalos's "Connie and Carla" feels like a modern take on Billy Wilder's glorious "Some Like it Hot". It shares a similar storyline with two people forced to go on the run and masquerade as the opposite sex to avoid a gangster who is after them, with a romantic subplot thrown in to complicate matters. And like the pairing of Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, the pairing of Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette provide plenty of laughs. But whilst "Some Like it Hot" is an undeniable classis "Connie and Carla" is just a fun movie that grows on you the longer you watch it.
Connie and Carla (Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette) have been friends since childhood where they started performing show tunes together, now grown up they still perform their show tunes to small crowds in airport lounges. But when they witness a murder they are forced to go on the run in fear for their lives. Having reached Los Angeles they struggle to find work until they decide to start performing again but in order to keep their identity secret they masquerade as men who perform as drag queens. They are a huge hit pulling in the crowds at a struggling bar but with a gangster still trying to track them down and Connie falling for Jeff (David Duchovny - Zoolander) who thinks she is a man it gets complicated.
What is very obvious is that "Connie and Carla" comes across as a modern take on "Some Like it Hot" taking the essence of the story and bringing it into the 21st century. As such the path it follows from Connie and Carla witnessing a gangster murder someone, going on the run and masquerading as the opposite sex through to the gangsters catching up with them is identical, as is the added romantic element where Connie falls for Jeff but can't make her feelings clear because it would blow their cover. But it is very much a 21st century version of the story and it is quite amusing that Connie and Carla end up masquerading as men who are drag queens and end up helping a struggling club owner turn around their business by putting on a show. In a way if you've never seen "Some Like it Hot" the whole story will probably seem pretty original and quite clever where as for those who do know Billy Wilder's classic will spot the similarities a mile off.
What is a pity is as where "Some Like it Hot" is a screwball comedy, "Connie and Carla" doesn't get close to that frenetic style working its way through what are quite obvious gags. Admittedly the intentionally cheesy way the movie starts with Connie and Carla putting on their Broadway show at an airport is quite amusing if a little strange. But what follows on from there ends up being a little obvious when they decide to masquerade as drag queens and so we watch them having to hide who they really are from their drag queen friends. It is fun but other than a handful of scenes such as their drag queen friends prodding Connie's breasts because they think the padding is very realistic, the comedy is not overly memorable. But it does grow on you and the longer you stay watching "Connie and Carla" the more entertaining it becomes especially with a cameo appearance from Debbie Reynolds.
What though is very memorable is the musical feel which flows throughout the movie, especially after the intentionally cheesy intro as we watch Connie and Carla sing snippets from show tunes in the airport lounge. In a way it's sort of expected as you have the storyline about Connie and Carla masquerading as drag queens helping a struggling bar into becoming a success. But the movie is literally littered with musical moments and each one is impressive be it Connie and Carla doing "Cabaret" or the bigger scenes where their drag queen friends join in. For what is essentially a comedy these musical scenes are full on productions and not only do they impress with their choreography but also for the fact it is Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette doing the singing.
Talking of Vardalos and Collette there is a real fun feeling to their partnership which helps make some of the more obvious funny scenes more enjoyable. Now it has to be said that at times it looks like the make up artists struggled to disguise Vardalos's natural beauty because where as Collette strangely manage to pass as a woman looking like a man playing a drag queen, Vardalos often looked like a beautiful woman in bad wigs and makeup. Despite this minor gripe watching them do their various musical numbers is great fun especially when the crowds go wild for them. And it has to be said that David Duchovny is perfectly cast as love interest Jeff because his comic timing when it comes to how he deals with drag queens is spot on.
What this all boils down to is that "Connie and Carla" is an enjoyable movie which gets better the longer you watch. Whether intentional or not it is very much a modern take on "Some Like it Hot" and in comparison feels weak but with Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette delivering plenty of laughs and some great musical scenes it is still a fun movie to watch.