To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar

Three “drag queens” (Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo) take a road trip to California and end up stranded in Snydersville, a small town in the middle of nowhere. Of course, if the town were like a Zac Snyder film the three queens would have blown it to smithereens. Instead they do nothing.

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Bizarrely, the three queens are in drag the entire time, and it’s a crucial plot point that everyone in the town thinks they are women. You could argue that it’s a small town and they don’t see many drag queens, but they do have women there. It’s true that some drag queens can pass for women (see photo), but not many, and not 24hrs a day, and not when the drag queen is Wesley Snipes. Even Mike Pence would have clocked him.

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Courtney Act

By having them in drag non-stop you also miss the potentially interesting opportunity to explore both sides of their personality. It’s possible the film makers just don’t understand what a drag queen is.

The three lead performances are poor, with none of them bringing any depth or humour to the two-dimensional caricatures. Leguizamo is the best of the three, at least delivering slightly plausible Latin camp. Swayze is just terrible as Vida, but next to Snipes he looks like Divine.

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Junior

Martial artist Snipes, who appears to be the unwitting victim of stunt casting, is about as convincing as a woman as Arnold Schwarzenegger in Junior. His stiff movements and raggedy drag utterly fail to help us buy into the film, and the idea that anyone could mistake him for a woman is utterly preposterous. He was more effeminate in Demolition Man.

The shoddy production includes soap opera quality sets and lines of dialogue which either didn’t make sense in the script or were mis-spoken and then not re-shot. This gives the impression of a very low budget film, an impression which is counteracted by its well-known cast, including a major part for Chris Penn, a small part for Robin Williams (another lazy stereotype) and cameos from RuPaul, The Lady Bunny and Quentin Crisp that should never have been.

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The tone is all over the place, with domestic violence and attempted rape and murder happening alongside lame comedy. In fact, the only genuinely funny moments in the film are when the three drag queens (two of whom are meant to be the best in the state of New York) attempt to dance.

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Released the year after The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, it’s impossible not to see this as a slap-dash rehash. Priscilla‘s heart, character depth and sensitive look at the issues faced by  gay and trans people, is replaced by crude stereotypes and the most basic understanding of drag and drag culture. The one plot-line that looks like it’s heading towards a gay relationship instead results in the drag queen giving up her love interest to a local woman, lest we have to endure the horror of two men kissing.

The unfunny and uninspired script feels like it was knocked out in a day and the ham-fisted direction suggests as little ability behind the camera as in front of it. Ultimately this film about drag queens ends up just being a drag, and with a 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes perhaps it should have been called Some Like it Not. Now, sashay away.

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