Dicks: The Musical Review: From a Gay God to Twincest, A24s Absurdist Satire Must Be Seen to Be Believed
What are the odds that two openly gay cut-ups doing a raunchy half-hour musical comedy routine in a Gristede’s grocery store would somehow convince “Borat” director Larry Charles to turn their show, “Fucking Identical Twins,” into a feature-length A24 movie? You’d stand a better chance playing the lottery than predicting the path “Dicks: The Musical” took to reach the big screen — which is exactly why this twisted cross between “The Parent Trap” and “Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy” seems destined for cult status.
The absurdist brainchild of Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp, “Dicks” is an unapologetically puerile, hard-R novelty that’s just lo-fi enough to maintain its underground cred. If any other distributor were backing it, “Dicks” might shrivel into home-video obscurity. Considering A24’s bizart-house cachet, however, the hipster boutique should be able to leverage the buzz from the movie’s opening (mid)night berth at the Toronto Film Festival — plus the legitimizing involvement of real-deal Broadway stars Megan Mullally and Nathan Lane — to box office success.
With God (Bowen Yang) as its narrator, the movie centers on a pair of tall but otherwise dissimilar-looking twins, Craig Tittle (short-haired Sharp) and Trevor Brock (Jackson, with the free-flowing Fabio ’do). These two didn’t know one another existed, despite living next door and being top-earners for the same company, Vroomba, which sells replacement parts for vacuum cleaners. According to the first couple songs, these big-city studs are exceptionally well-endowed, but unfulfilled in their search for someone who really gets how they feel.
Plucking every trope they can from cornball separated-at-birth stories — including that device where the estranged siblings produce complementary lockets — Jackson and Sharp’s script takes the brothers’ newfound affinity pretty much as far as one possibly can. After realizing they’re related, the duo scheme to get their long-separated parents back together, so they can each experience what it’s like to have a “real family.” For some reason, they figure it’ll go better if they switch places, which leads to all kinds of silliness as the brothers discover the parent they never met.
Craig goes home to Evelyn (Mullally), an eccentric old shut-in surrounded by tchotchkes, while Trevor pays Harris (Lane) a visit, prompting his dad to admit his homosexuality. Though Charles keeps the laughs coming the whole way through, these two scenes are easily the funniest in the entire film as Mullally and Lane inject original ideas into their already kooky parent-child reunions. While Jackson and Sharp are both veterans of the Upright Citizens Brigade, the movie’s master improvisers prove to be Mullally (whom Charles allows to go on long Dadaist digressions) and Lane (who can barely keep a straight face when feeding deli meat to his unconventional pets).
Since Dad is gay, there’s not much hope of patching up their parents’ divorce, but that doesn’t stop the twins from arranging a dinner date at La Chateaux, where old passions flare while Karl Saint Lucy (who co-wrote the original songs and score) cameos as the romantic restaurant’s resident pianist. The brothers spy from behind a trolley as Evelyn and Harris’ red-hot lust rips the dining room apart. With practically every scene, Charles encourages the cast to push things to the limit. But why stop there?
“Why didn’t you tell me mom’s pussy fell off?” Craig asks his brother, who seems equally surprised by the two “Sewer Boys” their dad keeps caged in his living room (creepy puppets Backpack and Whisper were operated by the Bob Baker Marionette Theater). As if all of this weren’t surreal enough, the whole movie keeps making room for musical numbers. Jackson and Sharp sing live, while dancers distractingly move among them, poking fun at the traditions of a fanciful form that — judging by the failure of “West Side Story” — younger audiences don’t fancy in its unironic form.
Here, the cast routinely breaks the fourth wall, as Charles instructs editor Al LeVine to pick not-quite-perfect takes in which audiences can see the actors struggling to keep a straight face. He plays tricks with split screens and cross-cuts between Evelyn and Harris for effect. “Dicks” feels practically critic-proof at times in the way it privileges whatever gets the laugh over consistency or coherence. In the opening number, Craig and Trevor sing about having multiple apartments and houses in the Hamptons, but they live like glorified college students. And don’t even ask about Evelyn’s flying punani.
Then again, gutter-minded as the movie can be at times (that’s literally where the action winds up, before getting vulgarly literal about the two-man show’s original “Fucking Identical Twins” title), there’s some pretty shrewd cultural satire woven throughout. As the brothers’ empowered female boss, Megan Thee Stallion puts the two players in their place with “Out-Alpha the Alpha,” one of more than half a dozen original songs written for the feature. Historically speaking, “Dicks” is not only A24’s first musical, but it’s an even more brazenly queer studio comedy than last year’s “Bros” (even if it’s “All Love Is Love” number feels like a step backwards).
Conservatives are sure to object to Yang’s irreverent deity, who rocks bleached hair and booty shorts, like he’s emceeing some kind of circuit party in the clouds, though it’s no worse than the “South Park” movie’s take on Satan. To get offended is to miss the point in a film that pokes fun at practically everything, including A24’s recent Oscar glory, as its douchebag heroes walk out of a movie called “Everyone, Everywhere Cums at Once.” Good luck to anyone who tries censoring the movie for airlines or television. For maximum delight, “Dicks” really ought to remain uncut.
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