Connie and Carla
Directed by Michael Lembeck
Written by Nia Vardalos
Starring Nia Vardalos, Toni Collette, David Duchovny


Connie and Carla

I was not among those who were enchanted by Nia Vardalos's enormous 2002 hit "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." It was a cheesy sitcom built up to feature- film length, stuffed with ethnic stereotypes and hampered by a plot that was barely there. So I dreaded the arrival of "Connie and Carla," which Vardalos also wrote (but did not direct - the director here is Michael Lembeck), with its unnervingly familiar story of two musicians in Chicago who witness a gangland shooting, run from the killers and find work in drag.

Well, yes, that really is the story, and the first thing to say is that "Connie and Carla" is no "Some Like it Hot." But this film has a certain innocent charm to go with its hammering at stereotypes - this time of drag and gay life - and it is an unexpectedly pleasant film. Vardalos and the versatile Australian actress Toni Collette play two lifelong friends who've been singing together since they met in third grade. They do duets of songs from everything from "Oklahoma" to "Jesus Christ Superstar," with the kind of choreography that went out with vaudeville. Now, though, on the run, they head for Los Angeles where they find work at a gay club by pretending that they're men in drag.

Everyone around the club is amazed that a) they're not lipsyncing their songs - as most men do because their voices aren't high enough to be convincing - and b) they're so good that they transform a dull night-spot into the hottest drag club in L.A. Meanwhile they're being hunted down by both the murderers and their own Chicago boyfriends. And though Connie meets Jeff, the man of her dreams (David Duchovny), in L.A., he thinks she's a gay man and she can't tell him the truth. And he has his own issues; his brother Robert is the gay bartender at the club (Stephen Spinella), and Jeff is frightened of acknowledging him.

So will Jeff and Robert work through their issues? Will Connie and Jeff find each other? Will the gang boss find them but be arrested just in time to save everyone's lives? Will Carla reunite with her Chicago boyfriend? Will a special appearance by Debbie Reynolds at the club save the day? Is there really a tooth fairy? Well, of course there is. After all, it's a movie.