More noise than signal

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

Slight change of pace for Snipes here, as he takes the sequinned mantle of Noxeema Jackson, a New York drag queen, who, alongside Patrick Swayze’s Vida Boheme win the Drag Queen of the Year heats and a flight out to Hollywood to compete for the national title. However, they take an interest in upset youngster Chi Chi Rodriguez, played by John Luguizamo, and they resolve to take Chi Chi along and train her in the arts of being fabulous.

But their travel allowance won’t stretch for an extra plane ticket, so they purchase a “vintage” Cadillac and set off for a cross country drive, hampered by some hassle from Chris Penn’s Sheriff Dollard somewhere in less tolerant middle America. After some tumult caused by fending off his attempted rape, they knock him unconscious and flee, thinking him dead. They don’t have much time to process their situation before their car breaks down, stranding them in the small town of Snydersville until a replacement part can be ordered.

They settle in for the weekend, making friends and dealing with enemies in their fierce style, while Dollard tries to track them down.

It’s difficult to get too worked up about To Wong Foo, in either direction. There’s certainly things I could sit here and get upset about on a narrative level, even for something with no greater aims than a roustabout comedy. It’s all frightfully superficial, and while it’s touching on societies attitudes to those different from the majority it’s not exactly doing much with that. Also apparently I’m supposed to believe that this entire town don’t recognise a drag act when they see it?

Anyway, none of that is troublesome enough to get really upset about, and the central trio provide more than enough charm to push though to make this a watchable enough film. In one of those occasional film making coincidences, this was made and released around the same time as the similarly structured Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and I think time has been kinder to that.

Perhaps a little disappointing, this – its heart is in the right place, and for the theme of this podcast I absolutely can’t fault Snipes’ performance, but it’s just a little too flyaway to recommend.