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The Birdcage

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Birdcage

Starring: Robin Williams, Nathan Lane
Director: Mike Nichols
Rated: R
RunTime: 119 Minutes
Release Date: March 1996
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Gay/Lesbian

*Also starring: Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest, Hank Azaria, Dan Futterman, Christine Baranski, Calista Flockhart, Tom McGowan, Grant Heslov

Review by Andrew Hicks
2½ stars out of 4

Elton John has a new favorite movie. This homosexual transvestite farce isn't one of my personal favorites, though, and not because of the flamboyant gayness aspect either. THE BIRDCAGE is only sporadically funny, with too many jokes and scenes that just don't work and not enough of the ones that do to balance it out. The key phrase for what would improve this movie is tighter editing, but obviously there's nothing tight in THE BIRDCAGE.

Robin Williams, looking too much like Kevin Kline with a moustache, plays the owner of a nightclub where people go to see men dress up as women and lip synch old disco songs (eerily reminiscent of my seventeenth birthday party). The featured performer is Robin's longtime companion, Albert (Nathan Lane), who I have to say makes the ugliest woman ever. Lane contributes the most hilarious performance of the movie by reinforcing every gay stereotype in existence. I guess it's only politically correct to make stereotypical gay jokes if the people making the jokes are gay themselves.

The conflict arises as Robin'sis wedding to a woman (oh, the horror). Worse, she's the daughter of conservative senator Gene Hackman, co-founder of a Moral Majority-type organization. And still worse, they're all driving down for dinner with Mr. and Mr. Williams. Still worse yet, the daughter has told Hackman and his wife (Dianne Weist) that her fiancee's parents are your average businessman-housewife combo, something any upstanding Republican senator's daughter can be proud to marry into.

So Williams gives in to his son and agrees to redecorate the house. The anatomically-correct nude sculptures have to go. And so does Albert, until he convinces Williams that he can play the role of a straight uncle. It's obvious he can't, though, during one of the funniest scenes in the movie, which also has Williams trying to teach him to act "like a real man," complete with crotch-grabbing, spitting, football conversations and repititions of the phrase "f---in' A!" And in the role of Williams' wife, the mother of his child (and the only woman he ever slept with), Christine Baranski from "Cybill."

The entire last third of THE BIRDCAGE features the actual dinner between Hackman and Williams' families, which complicates itshen Baranski gets caught in traffic, Albert decides to play the role of his career and a group of tabloid journalists gather outside to get pictures of Hackman's meeting with a gay couple. Like the rest of the film, it does have some genuine laughs as well as tedious scenes that just don't work and should have been cut. THE BIRDCAGE is, at its current length of two hours, a mixed bag of entertainment with great actors doing great things some of the time and mediocre things the rest of the time. At an hour-and-a-half it would be a genuinely good comedy because we all know length does matter.

Copyright 1996 Andrew Hicks

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