As part of our coverage of the 48th annual Toronto International Film Festival, Meg Shields reviews the crass, campy, and categorically cocky ‘Dicks: The Musical.’ Follow along with more coverage in our Toronto International Film Festival archives.
Before we whip our pants off and get to business, a disclaimer: if you can, go into Dicks: The Musical as blind as possible. No small feat with a publicity-minded studio like A24, I know. But if you can arrive at the film knowing next to nothing, there are titillating twists and absurdist wrinkles that will leave you giggling and clapping like a happy baby. So, if at this point you are unspoiled, close your eyes, scroll to the bottom of this review to trick the algorithm into thinking you read the article, and stay ignorant. For the rest of you, persist. My pants are off.
Dicks: The Musical is a profoundly silly, stupid, and ridiculous film that is easily one of the comedic highlights of the year. Our heroes are the cocky and “confidently heterosexual” Craig and Trevor, portrayed respectively by Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp, reprising their roles from their two-man stage show, F***ing Identical Twins. When the two swinging dicks learn that they are identical twins separated at birth, the pricks decide to reunite their parents the only way they know how: by tricking them into falling in love again, Parent Trap-style, so they can be a real family.
Unfortunately for the twins (and fortunately for us), their mom and dad are absolutely bananas. Their mom, Evelyn (Megan Mullally) is a batty, bric-a-brac-loving shut-in whose vagina literally fell off. And for his part, Harris (Nathan Lane) is a recently out queer man who has pushed everyone in his life away with the “Sewer Boys,” two Ghoulie-looking lads who love kicklines and being fed cold cuts baby-bird-style.
Dicks: The Musical is directed by Larry Charles, who even at his most absurd has tended towards putting whacky personalities in aggressively mundane situations. And considering Charles’ evident talent for letting funny people do their thing and be funny (e.g. Borat, Curb Your Enthusiasm, New Girl), he’s a perfect fit for the wild, wet, wacky world of Dicks.
This feels like such a low bar, but it’s genuinely delightful to watch a movie musical where everyone can actually sing. Lane and Mullally are absolute ringers who make goofy power ballads look easy. For their part, Jackson and Sharp are clearly pros who’ve turned that unmistakable theater kid stank into a grin-inducing musk. Good job, boys.
If we’re being honest, the cast’s weak link is its one “professional” singer: Megan Thee Stallion, who plays the twins’ boss at an off-brand Roomba sales center. Her number — in which she espouses how great it is to be a girl boss who “out-alpha’s the alpha” —is both boring and tonally out of place. The energy drop is punctuated with a “well, back to the real story!” lampshade that cements the song’s redundancy. SNL’s Bowen Yang is also a little underwhelming, which is a bit of a problem considering that he’s playing God (our story’s narrator) as a catty gay man.
Moving back to the pleasant surprises, one of Dicks‘ other boons is its self-contained approach to comedy. Winking postmodernism and toothless pop culture references are a virus infecting much of modern filmmaking, but Dicks happily exists within the confines of its own established silliness. It’s much more challenging to build a self-sustaining comedic ecosystem than it is to coast on the goodwill of existing cultural touchstones. Dicks deserves a massive amount of credit for being its own, weird little thing; which is, unfortunately, becoming more and more of a rarity.
And while we’re embodying Grandpa Simpson’s old-man-yells-at-cloud, bring back the end credits blooper reel! The gags and goofs montage at the end of this offers a small glimpse into what was obviously a ridiculously fun shoot. Lane’s laugh can power car batteries, I swear to Yang.
All told: Dicks: The Musical is a rare, R-rated musical comedy that is as stupid and stupendous as its name suggests. It’s not going to be for everyone, obviously. But if you find yourself in the small, sticky circle that is the target audience, it’s 86 minutes of c*cks, c*nts, and c*ld c*ts. What more can depraved showtune lovers ask for?
Dicks the Musical is currently scheduled for an October 6, 2023 release date. Watch the film’s trailer here: