There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who might want to see a ridiculously irreverent musical riff on “The Parent Trap” in which the estranged identical twins aren’t cute tweenage children but rather grown-ass men who sing about sacks of cum and clearly want to have sex with each other… and those who might not. I have fantastic news for the first group.
Directed by Larry Charles (“Borat”), funded by the petty cash that A24 didn’t have to spend on interns during the pandemic, based on Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp’s off-Broadway show “Fucking Identical Twins,” and starring that same duo as overtly gay parodies of straight white men who still find something to complain about, “Dicks: The Musical” is — in all likelihood — the best movie I’ve ever seen in which Megan Mullally plays a 94-year-old shut-in who carries her vagina in a handbag (and has done so ever since it detached from her body like the creature in “The Thing” and had to be stunned into submission with a whack from her son’s flip-flop).
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“What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is probably the only other thing that even comes close, but even when this film’s “Book of Mormon”-like energy begins to wear thin, its go-for-broke commitment to the bit helps to ensure that it goes down easy. It doesn’t hurt that “Dicks” is only 86 minutes long, at least one of which is devoted to Nathan Lane spitting raw ham into the mouths of his precious “sewer boys,” two small, telepathic gremlins his character keeps caged in his apartment to fill the void left in his heart when he and his wife split up.
In case there’s any lingering confusion, “Dicks: The Musical” is a very silly movie, a fact that it celebrates early, often, and at the top of its lungs. It’s also a very important movie, as its opening titles call attention to the fact that it’s the first thing ever written by two gay men — a brave announcement to make, considering that most audiences would never be able to tell. Craig (Sharp) and Trevor (Jackson) are introduced through a number called “Always on Top,” in which the twins, who look almost nothing alike, sing in split-screen about their love of fucking women and being masters of the universe.
But it’s hard for two people to be tops at the same time, which proves to be a problem after a fateful corporate merger forces both of these ultra-competitive Vroomba salesmen to work in the same office (a Vroomba is basically a Roomba™ but without the lawsuit). Neither Craig nor Trevor wants to be the Doris Day to the other’s Rock Hudson, but the two manage to put aside their differences after the soul-baring lyrics of a very funny song about their mutual loneliness (e.g. “This feeling that I’m feeling is emotionally very bad”) leads them to realize that they’ve been missing each other for their entire lives. And so a plan is hatched to swap identities in order to reunite their parents, one of whom is a bisexual sophisticate who would sooner play with his sewer boys than have sex with his ex-wife, and the other of whom is a dotty shut-in who allegedly has sex with her favorite doll’s rhinestone-covered cowboy boot, even though she no longer has any genitalia.
Don’t ask questions: The moral of the story here is that love is love is love, an inclusive philosophy that “Dicks” ultimately stretches further than even the most progressive audiences would hope. And that spirit of acceptance is baked into every aspect of a film that asks you to take it on its own terms, beginning with the insistence that its cheapness is more of a feature than a bug. It might be billed as “A24’s first musical” and directed by someone with some major hits on his resume, but “Dicks” is a star vehicle for two people who don’t yet have Wikipedia pages, and it leans hard into the fact that it looks and feels like a glorified “SNL” sketch. Not only does the film literally cast Bowen Yang as God (yes, God is gay and loves doing coke, read a book), but it was shot on a Hollywood backlot with no effort to hide the hills in the background, it’s stitched together with stock footage of 1960s New York, and its most pronounced dolly shot leaves the camera tracks in frame as a sight gag.
Most of the jokes aren’t so visually clever, or visual at all. There are exceptions (Mullally is somehow able to turn the simple act of pointing at an object into one of the funniest moments of any film this year), but Charles isn’t a particularly dynamic filmmaker, and too much of the material here relies on squeezing the word “fuck” into showtunes where it sounds like it shouldn’t belong. That gets old fast, and partially accounts for a movie that starts on a high note and then runs out of steam (as is often the case for such wacky comedies), but the songs keep things moving along even when their staging falls short.
The only truly memorable number is a slickly produced bop performed by Megan Thee Stallion, who’s excellent as the boss at the Vroomba parts factory before the movie runs out of use for her, but the rest of the tunes are all credible Broadway riffs that the cast belts out with aplomb; it’s impressive that Jackson and Sharp can hold their own against Lane and Mullally, and their enthusiasm compensates whenever their range falls short. And when enthusiasm alone can no longer keep the ship afloat, sheer audacity rides to the rescue, as “Dicks” ends with an inevitable but satisfying eruption of bad behavior that feels so good — one that leaves you wondering just how much funnier and more transgressive this movie could have been had it allowed itself to go that hard from the start.
“Dicks: The Musical” premiered at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. A24 will release it in theaters on Friday, September 29.
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