Draaaaaaag Queens

Nia Vardalos's new comedy is a big, fat disappointment.

Two years after the big fat success of her Greek wedding, the honeymoon is definitely over for actress Nia Vardalos. The ratings for the dismal TV spinoff indicated that a once-wooed public was considering a divorce.

After the release of "Connie and Carla," which was also penned by Vardalos, moviegoers will probably opt for an annulment - especially once they discover the writer/actress is guilty of cheating. Yes, cheating.

The plot of "Connie and Carla" is an unacknowledged steal of "Some Like It Hot," the great 1959 comedy directed by Billy Wilder. In that film, two unemployed musicians - Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon - witness a slaying by the Chicago mafia and flee by posing as women in an all-girl band.

In Vardalos's script, she and Toni Collette play Connie and Carla, two unsuccessful dinner-theater performers who exit Chicago for L.A. after seeing a mob murder. They join a gay cabaret revue by disguising themselves as - get this - drag queens.

To dress up as men dressing up as women, the girls simply deepen their voices, slather on glittery eyeliner, and give their wardrobes a Carmen Miranda makeover. The result is akin to Janet Jackson going to a Halloween party as Michael Jackson. In addition to "Hot," the conceit smacks of Julie Andrews's turn as a woman playing a man playing a woman in "Victor/Victoria."

In that movie, Andrews bats her false eyelashes at James Garner, who's alarmed at the prospect that he might be gay; so it's no surprise that Vardalos finds herself flirting with a straight man (David Duchovny) who is uncomfortable that his gay brother is a drag queen.

Alas, Vardalos clearly hasn't a clue how to write dramatic tension into a scene. The screenplay feels as padded as a drag queen's dress as she stretches to fill the gaps between mechanical plot points. It leaves Duchovny and the versatile Collette little material to work with.

Worse, for all her enthusiasm, Vardalos reacts to everything by widening her eyes with a dexterity not seen since Marty Feldman played Igor in "Young Frankenstein." At this rate, she'll be reduced to doing dinner theater herself.

Rated PG-13 for sexual humor and drug references.

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