Our dear Marge rehashes “‘Gypsy 83,’ and even when she imitates
Mommy Cho, it’s not funny
BAM BAM AND CELESTE
Director: Lorene Machado
Margaret Cho, Bruce Daniels, Jane Lynch Wilson Cruz and Alan Cumming.
Wolfe Video, $24.95
1 hr. 25 min. Not rated.
A fag and his hag drive to New York from their Midwestern small town for a competition. If that plot including the guy tricking with an Amish farm boy along the way sounds familiar, it was used six years ago in Todd Stephens’ “Gypsy 83.”
I hate to say this, because I love Margaret Cho. But she appears to have swallowed that script and regurgitated a pale imitation, “Bam Bam and Celeste,” as a starring vehicle for herself and her frequent opening act, Bruce Daniels.
Bam Bam (Daniels) and Celeste (Cho), probably the only non-whites in their DeKalb, Ill., school in 1987, are considered freaks, especially by “high school dictators” Jackie (Elaine Hendrix) and Ryan (Butch Klein).
“Someday we’re gonna leave this town. Then we’ll show ’em,” they promise.
Twenty years later, they’re still freaks and best friends. And they still haven’t left. Their appearance hasn’t changed much either, and four years between dates hasn’t done much for Celeste’s self-image. They consult a fortuneteller (Kathy Najimy), who tells Celeste she’s beautiful and tells Bam Bam, a hairdresser, “Your destiny lies in the unearthing of her beauty.”
So they take off for New York to appear on the reality makeover show “Trading Faces,” hosted by John Cho (no relation to Margaret) and sponsored by Salon Mirage, which happens to be run by Jackie and Ryan. Celeste is chosen for the show by Eugene (Alan Cumming), who happens to be her e-pal on DictatorsSuckAss.com. (He’s IdiGourmet, she’s MataHairy.) When they meet in person Bam Bam exclaims, “He’s like a male version of you!”
But before that happens, they have a road trip to survive. It almost seems like they won’t when they have a near-“Deliverance” experience at their first stop but are rescued by Darlene Dawson (Jane Lynch), “the lesbian Lone Ranger.” Later Celeste confronts a neo-Nazi convenience store clerk (Danny Hoch).
Bam Bam has a better time with the aforementioned farmer and a motel clerk (Wilson Cruz, who would have been a better choice for Daniels’ role). The luckier he gets, the worse Celeste feels about herself.
After a promising arrival in New York, things start to go very wrong. Celeste makes some bad choices for her first date with Eugene, and Bam Bam realizes he forgot to pack his lucky eyelash curler. The old friends quarrel, with Celeste telling Bam Bam, “If you like me, then you must be a bigger loser than I am” and “It’s hard to think when you’ve got a big dick in your mouth.”
Since this is a feelgood movie, everything comes together in the end. Celeste gets made over and appears to shed about 75 pounds before she delivers the message about inner beauty being what’s important: “We’re all beautiful!”
In addition to playing Celeste as a variation on herself, Cho appears as Celeste’s mother. If you ever saw her do her own mother on stage without the aid of wardrobe and makeup, you’d think she can’t possibly blow this. But the material isn’t there. One word like “assmaster” (or is that two words?) is better than the long, boring speeches Mommy makes here.
Daniels doesn’t appear ready for prime time as an actor. And Cumming must have been having too much fun with the queer company to remember he’s supposed to be playing a heterosexual. Oh, maybe he’s metrosexual, but he doesn’t dress like it. Hendrix isn’t bad in a stock role. And most of the guest stars are in and out before they can embarrass themselves.
Lorene Machado directed Cho’s last two concert films but wasn’t up to the challenge of a narrative with multiple locations. Cho’s script has a few funny lines and ideas (an “Angels in America” spoof goes nowhere). But it’s so derivative of the superior “Gypsy 83” that it’s not funny.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 24, 2007