Sunday, June 06, 2010


From the Vault: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

As the camera shows Mitzi's flamboyant lip-synching to "I've Never Been to Me," moviegoers know immediately whether or not they'll enjoy the campiness of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Mitzi's true identity is that of an Australian named Tick (Hugo Weaving), who faces a crossroads in his life as a drag performer because of an urgent call from his wife — a person he's declined to mention exists to his cabaret colleagues — who needs both professional and parental help.

Determined to try out a new life, Tick sets out across the Australian outback to his wife's resort, taking along fellow performer Adam (Guy Pearce) and his grieving, widowed friend Bernadette, a transsexual wonderfully played by veteran actor Terence Stamp.

As might be expected in a film where the protagonists are drag queens, writer-director Stephan Elliott fills his vehicle with plenty of unleaded, mostly '70s-era kitsch. However, camp for camp's sake often proves difficult to maintain and Priscilla definitely sputters in its early stages as the trio boards the bus that gives the film its title.

Fortunately, much amusement occurs on the road, including a visit to an out-of-the-way pub and an engine problem that connects the entertainers with an extra traveler. Priscilla also has some striking moments showing the unadulterated hate Adam, Tick and Bernadette encounter, but those scenes seem jarringly out of place in an otherwise wacky entertainment that gets laughs from ABBA songs.

In addition to Stamp's straight-forward turn as the grieving Bernadette, the film gets solid performances from the entire cast. Elliott creates a unique film, even if it's a one-joke movie. His major downfall turns out to be the inability to tighten the film's beginning and prolonging its ending. Still, so many funny moments abound that if you're in the right frame of mind, Priscilla could be a real hoot.

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