Newest drag journey on film is haphazard and unreal
To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything. Julie Newmar
Directed by Beeban Kidron.
Starring Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo, starring Stockard Channing, Blythe Danner, and Melinda Dillon.By Teresa Esser
The movie To Wong Foo is as lame as its name. An obvious Hollywood rip-off of Australia's The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, this film is so obsessed with copying somebody else's good idea that it forgets what it was supposed to be about in the first place.
The story starts with a drag queen beauty pageant at a gay bar in New York City and ends at a similar contest in Hollywood. The two hours in between are filled with a cross-country car trip during which the car predictably breaks down. Stranded in rural America with little more than a trunkful of high heels and gaudy dresses, the three "persecuted" and "under-appreciated" drag queens take it upon themselves to transform a largely homophobic and washed-out rural town into a monument to fashion-consciousness and civic pride.
With more perceptiveness than Mighty Mouse and more self-righteousness than Robin Hood, Noxema (Wesley Snipes) and Vida (Patrick Swayze) teach the mute to speak and put an end to the town's domestic violence. Meanwhile, Chi-Chi (John Leguizamo) deflects a farm boy's affections toward the local teen who has lusted longer. Unwilling to give up their big-city lives to stick around in the backwoods paradise that has embraced them, the three find a way to fix their car in time to drive off into the settling dust of the parade that they created. In short, this movie has a happy ending.
Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing about the film that can be called realistic. Swayze and Snipes are so comfortable in their heterosexuality that they seem to forget they are playing the part of persecuted queers; Leguizamo, although pouty, has an emotional recuperation period of about one minute. Unlike the parallel scene in Priscilla, where the three queens have to defend themselves against an angry mob of mining hicks in the outback town of Coober Peedy, Hollywood's dragsters weasel their way in and out of trouble with little more than a nervous giggle. Although Vida is accosted by a sexist and homophobic cop, the trouble is resolved with a single punch. There is never any drama or suspense; the three queens never get sick of one another's company and although their employment situation is never referred to, their supply of money appears to be endless.
To Wong Foo's one redeeming quality is that it is funny. The comedy is slapstick and predictable, but it works, and it's worth the price of admission to see Swayze and Snipes in dresses.