Nathan Lane, Megan Mullally, Aaron Jackson, and Josh Sharp in "Dicks: The Musical"
If you thought you’ve seen every iteration of “The Parent Trap,” the most profane and preposterous version likely to ever exist has arrived. Absurd is the word for “Dicks: The Musical,” an off-the-wall concoction that simply has to be seen to be believed, though not without notice of its acquired taste. Directed by Larry Charles, known to offend with Sacha Baron Cohen-led films such as 2006’s “Borat,” 2009’s “Brüno,” and 2012’s “The Dictator,” the film is an outrageous queer comedy that outdoes its ridiculousness on every turn. Co-writers Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp engage with a specific tone and take on the switcheroo synopsis of “The Parent Trap” – twins who discover they had been separated at birth switch places to reunite their estranged parents in the hopes of piecing their family back together. Insanity ensues when it turns out the twins’ parents are absolutely bizarre, made especially unhinged by the musical acting stylings of Megan Mullally and Nathan Lane. While not all of “Dicks: The Musical” successfully lands at all, and it can be obnoxious to watch, there is never a dull moment with the swing it takes on a comedic and visceral level.
Based on the off-Broadway show “Fucking Identical Twins” by Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson, the story is told from the perspective of two self-centered businessmen Craig (Sharp) and Trevor (Jackson). They behave as alpha males on top of the world. Both are the prized pigs of the sales department at a company that makes wheels, gears, and teeny tiny brushes. The film plays into the gag of Craig and Trevor being identical twins who look nothing alike. The two discover their family ties when a company merger forces them to work together. Their corporate-fueled opening number is chalk full of sharp line deliveries, as well as visual humor such as parody film posters plastered on walls (from “My Queer Lady” to “The Gay Odd Couple”). The number immediately sets the film’s parodic tone, as does the opening text beforehand, which makes a joke about gay actors being “brave” enough to play heterosexual characters. Sharp and Jackson establish a strong satirical lens and self-awareness from the very start. “Dicks: The Musical” continues to build on its absurdity until all hell breaks loose – from a flying vagina, to a pair of gremlin-looking “sewer boys,” and that does not even begin to capture the insanity.
At times, the film feels like an experiment of how much craziness can be thrown to the wall, and how much of it can stick. But there is an overall sense of control to the chaos. Sharp and Jackson’s screenplay maintains a consistently unusual vision, and the eclectic performances are fully committed to the gags. Without the actors’ idiosyncrasies and impeccable timing, the film would completely fall apart. Starring as the twins, Sharp and Jackson are appropriately exaggerated and bring a reliable energy to the screen. Part of the film’s humor is in watching their confusion and terror towards their parents’ behavior. As the twins’ estranged mom and dad, Evelyn and Harris, both Mullally and Lane channel characters who feel as though they are from an alternate universe.
To make the switch with each other, Craig and Trevor put on terrible wigs and commit very little effort to embody the other’s personality. They are too busy simply anticipating the opportunity to spend quality time with the parent they had never met. Craig wishes for a mother to be anything but kooky (Evelyn is Megan Mullally in kooky mode, times infinity). Trevor wants a father to do all the stereotypically boring dad activities with (Harris is Nathan Lane). Mullally and Lane surpass all expectations, doing and saying things one could never imagine from their wildest dreams. Not only are the actors of service to insane dialogue and outrageous scenarios, but they add unique talent and pathos to the depiction of these characters. Mullally, doing the strangest voice work and sporting the quirkiest costume, puts on a singular show full of surprises. Her character Evelyn is a total recluse who converses in the most peculiar of ways. Her musical numbers are amongst the film’s most surreal moments, as are each one of her deliveries, with lines such as “I switched the tea and the sand again.” As well, Mullally’s use of pauses for comedic effect is a humorous standout.
Adding to the surrealism is an excellent performance by Lane; his instantly welcoming presence grows anticipation for what his character will do next. Harris has come out as gay and the only companionship he has is a pair of “sewer boys” named Backpack and Whisper (puppets that look like deranged gremlins) he had found while inexplicably riding a boat down a sewer. Lane’s wonderful timing, grand musical numbers, and underlying poignancy cobble together into an unforgettable performance. Among the ensemble standouts Lane and Mullally, the film has a fun cast including a great narrator Bowen Yang as God (literally) and an entertaining Megan Thee Stallion as the twins’ boss Gloria. Stallion, making her feature film debut, has a catchy musical number “Out-Alpha the Alpha” during which she commands the screen.
As amusing as “Dicks: The Musical” can be, mainly thanks to the committed performances, the obnoxious and juvenile humor is more often than not exhausting and tedious to watch. The hit-or-miss jokes are patience-testers, and the unhinged “Parent Trap” concept starts to wear thin far earlier than hoped for. Considering the hyperactive energy of the material, Larry Charles’s direction falls surprisingly flat. The musical numbers are a fun exception, with choreography that plays to the actors’ strengths and physicality of their performances. From Lane’s “Gay Old Life” number, to the entire cast’s “All Love Is Love” at the film’s conclusion. But the world-building outside of those sequences lacks creativity. The writing also veers into repetitive territory, which is especially frustrating given the film’s short runtime.
“Dicks: The Musical” will not be for everyone, and it does not always work. It is funnier in hindsight when reflecting on the sheer fact that this film managed to get made, and that Nathan Lane feeds deli meat to his “sewer boys” directly from his mouth, just one example of how unhinged the story becomes. Lane endearingly refers to the humiliation he feels during the end-credit bloopers, having a grand time but wondering what he is doing in the film. As the viewer, this sentiment is deeply relatable. The glimpse into the making-of “Dicks: The Musical” may very well be more amusing than the film itself.