Toronto 2023 Review: DICKS: THE MUSICAL, Beautifully Demented
Megan Mullally, Nathan Lane, Bowen Yang, and Megan Thee Stallion Shine in Gloriously Freaky Extravaganza
There are a lot of words you could use to describe Dicks: The Musical, A24's first foray into the musical form. Freaky. Disgusting. Toe-tapping. Queer. Outrageous. Ingenius. Incomprehensible. Queer. Bizarre. Did I mention queer? Because yes, it is, and delightfully committed to staying true to its off-broadway, grotesque, ridiculous, fringe roots while taking full advantage of the budget afforded to go as far as allowed, and even more than a few steps further.
The opening film of the Midnight Madness section, the delightfully monstrous film, brainchild of writers and performers Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp, delights in its perversion that leaves few stones unturned in throwing its in audience into its madness. Directed by Larry Charles (Borat, The Dictator), and starring Jackson, Sharp, Megan Mullally, Nathan Lane, Bowen Yang, and Megan Thee Stallion, this is not your mother's old-timey Hollywood musical, nor even something more contempary-edge. Dicks: The Musical operates in a world entirely its own.
The plot is a familiar one: two men — Trevor (Jackson) and Craig (Sharp), both cock-sure (or so they pretend) and at the top of the young, white, straight, cismale foodchain (again, so they pretend) — discover that they are identical twins separated at birth, each one raised by a different parent, and they long for the experience of a 'real' family; and so they concoct a 'parent trap' scheme to bring together the estranged Evelyn (Megan Mullally) and Harris (Nathan Lane) together again. But right from the get go, we realize that the devil, or more acurately, the God (the sparkling Bowen Yang) is in the details.
From the get-go, we know we're in the land of tongue-in-ass-cheek humour, and it's impressive how easily the script and score fits into the film musical world. Leave your sense of logic and decorum at the door, because you won't need or want it. Jackson and Sharp's performer chemistry, their shared sense of humour, make it incredible easy to be thrown into their fucked-up world. I love that they more or less follow a familiar structure of musicals in the types of songs (power ballads, Motown homage, sad laments, big classical numbers), almost lulling their audience into a sense of security, than throwing them to the proverbial wolves - or should I say, Sewer Boys (and just wait until you meet them).
From the big song-and-dance numbers to the tiniest details (including a porn riff on an Oscar-winning film), nothing and noone is spared. And even if it seems at first like it's just a random of weirdness, there is method in the madness. Evelyn's seemingly infinate number of eccentricities - serving sand instead of tea, keeping her pussy in her purse - serve as a fuschia and potpourri-infused commentary on the ridiculous image of the older woman believed to be 'past her prime' - just lean into the ridiculous. By contrast, having a seemingly normal and calm father like Harris, whose single eccentricity it to keep homicidal creatures barely caged in his living room, the fact that he comes out as gay is an afterthought.
There is no better way to enjoy a film than when you can tell how much the actors are enjoying it. Seasoned performers like Mullally and Lane, with their screen and theatre chops, are clearly relishing in this material. Megan Thee Stallion absolutely lights up the screen in her scene-stealing number 'Out-Alpha the Alpha', the slickest number of the film. Charles, whose previous work often plays in the world of the absurd, is a natural fit to this material that I'm running out of adjectives to describe.
Depraved? Obscene? Scandelous? There's a few more, and if you assume a story like this will have a happy ending - well, you are correct, but it saves the best for last in a final glittery scene that takes it to a most taboo place that you may not be prepared for - but if you aren't on board at this point, then likely you will scoff (to put it mildly).
As much John Waters as it is Rogers and Hammerstein, Dicks: The Musical spares no expense, no joke, no character, and no moment, and that demented and depraved material keeps its cult-classic-in-the-making foundation while embracing all that the cinema has to enhance it.
Dicks: The Musical
- Larry Charles
- Aaron Jackson
- Josh Sharp
- Megan Mullally
- Nathan Lane
- Bowen Yang