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The Birdcage (1996)

Birds of a Feather

Come as you are

Directed by:

Mike Nichols

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 117 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

This tale was originally brought to the big screen in 1978 under the title 'La Cage aux Folles'. This 1996 Hollywood remake is effectively the same as it's Gallic parent, only with two crucial advantages: 1. Hank Azaria's in it. 2. It's not French.

It's the story of a flamboyant middle-aged gay couple – Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane) – who both run and live above the gaudy tranny-packed 'Birdcage' nightclub. There's trouble a-brewing when Val (Dan Futterman) – Armand's son from a misguided one-night stand 20 years previously – announces he's set to get hitched to girlfriend Barbara (Calista Flockhart). Unfortunately, Barb's dad's a right-wing senator who's leading a Coalition for Moral Order and has a nasty habit of lobbying against same-sex marriages. He's also Gene Hackman, but that's beside the point.

So Val somehow convinces his overly-accommodating father to tone down the mincing, wipe off the make-up and take that horrific phallice-shaped sculpture off the mantelpiece for a couple of hours while the in-laws come for a visit. From there on in it's archetypal comedy farce time as Armand, Albert and Val struggle to keep the truth from slipping out in front of their somewhat conservative dinner guests.

Williams is surprisingly reserved in his part, leaving the camp-as-Christmas stuff down to Lane, who obviously knows what he's doing in such territory. But it's the afore-mentioned Azaria, as Agador the Latino housemaid, who invariably steals his scenes and makes this a much more watchable movie in the process. The other higher-profile cast members do manage to provide a few decent laughs, but overall it's a fairly average comedy and is a tad mushy in places for my tastes. Apart from which, you'll wonder why Williams' character doesn't simply tell his houseguest where to stick his prejudices. Perhaps Armand just doesn't have it in him.

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It's Got: Calista Flockhart in pre-Ally McBeal mode.

It Needs: To be more consistently funny.

DVD Extras Just a trailer on the disc itself – there is a mildy interesting booklet inside the cover though. DVD Extras Rating: 2/10

Alternatives:

La Cage aux Folles, Mrs Doubtfire

Summary

A well-cast comedy which isn't really as funny as it probably should be – but worth seeing for Hank Azaria's performance alone.

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