The Birdcage (1996)

Though you think we'd be tired of the drag gags after TO WONG FOO,
remake of LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (1978) successfully reminds us that
there are few sights funnier than that of a man dressed as a woman.
Here, the "woman" is Albert (Nathan Lane), a star drag queen in
South Beach, FL, and the shrill half of a happy gay couple.  Her
longtime companion is Armand (Robin Williams), the straighter man
in the relationship and the owner of the all-ages club where Albert
performs.  Together, they must scramble to reinvent themselves for
the impending arrival of Armand's son's fiance's right-wing parents
(Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest).

Despite the inclusion of several awkward, though timely, political
statements-- Hackman's character is both a Republican Senator (!)
and the founder of the Coalition for Moral Order (!!)--  THE
BIRDCAGE is a surprisingly wholesome comedy that preaches nothing
more than the virtues of acceptance.  The super-swishy caricatures
are probably passe, sure, but director Mike Nichols and writer
Elaine May bring a sincerity to the characters that overrides any
outdating.  Of course, by the end, any and all messages are moot as
the ensemble gets down to brass tacks.

THE BIRDCAGE is first and foremost a farce, which means that every-
thing-- plot, character, etc.-- is secondary to set-up.  The entire
movie is spent in preparation for what befalls Armand and Albert
when the In-Laws-to-be arrive.  (Though the biggest laughs come at
the end, there are many funny bits peppered throughout.  Such as a
hilarious sequence of Williams trying to teach Lane how to "act
like a guy.")  Though not without problems-- the poor definition of
Hackman's character is a big one-- THE BIRDCAGE delivers a minor
message and some major laughs, and, in a movie season as dry as
this one, that's hardly a drag.  (Rated "R"/120 min.)

Grade: B  

Originally posted to triangle.movies in MOVIE HELL: March 10, 1996

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