“Dicks: The Musical” is billed as the first A24 musical and it’s going to be a tough opening act to follow. A twisted genre experiment that plays with sexuality, classic genre tropes, and general lunacy, it’s half a movie but it’s so committed to its rebellious tone that it makes for a hell of a half. Reportedly a production that ran as a two-man stage show by its leads for years, director Larry Charles (“Borat”) and A24 have pulled this twisted tale from the underground and delivered a film that feels like a cult classic before it’s even been released. It’s got that go-for-broke energy that defines comedies that engender incredibly loyal followings. Some people are going to die for it. Some people who can’t get on its wavelength are going to actively hate it. Consider me somewhere in the middle, impressed enough by the fearlessness to appreciate it while also wishing it had been expanded a bit more beyond its loose structure and thin ideas.
Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp play the title characters, Trevor and Craig, respectively, a pair of royal assholes who have been granted every privilege in life just by being male, straight, white, and rich. They sing about how perfect their lives are but hide their loneliness, hoping to find the families they never had growing up. You see, they’re identical twins (not really, but just go with it) who were separated at birth. Reunited at a job where they sell parts—not actual machines, just the parts for them—they realize that they are each other’s long-lost brothers, and they devise a plan to reunite their parents, played fearlessly by Megan Mullally and Nathan Lane. Mullally’s Evelyn is a caricature of an old kook who talks to her bric-a-brac and claims her genitalia literally came to life and fell off a few years ago. If that’s not weird enough, Lane’s Harris sings about being gay now, and his love for a pair of puppets called the Sewer Boys, hysterically analog creatures he found in the underground years ago and now raises, feeds, and fears. This is a difficult movie to do the plot recap thing on. Just trust me. Bowen Yang plays God. That probably tells you everything you need to know.
“Dicks: The Musical” is obviously a “The Parent Trap” riff, but this one ain’t for kids. Jackson and Sharp are quite good, leaning into every ridiculous concept in the film. They totally sell the alpha male obnoxiousness of Trevor and Craig to start, but get even funnier when they turn to reveal their loneliness and go undercover to reunite their truly odd parents. To say they commit would be an understatement, and there’s something about watching performers willing to go all-in—even when a joke doesn’t land, something is entrancing about the high-wire act of these performances. Having said that, I wished “Dicks: The Musical” didn’t repeat itself so often—if you like Mullally’s p*ssy joke, don’t worry, you’ll hear it a bunch more times, and the Sewer Boys bit get old before it hits its bizarre endpoint. It has so much energy in its best scenes that one wishes it found other places to spend it in terms of storytelling.
Believe it or not, the music itself helps. Besides a bit by Megan Thee Stallion that feels overproduced compared to the rest of the movie, the music here kinda rules. It probably helped to have Marius de Vries as the music producer, given his pedigree that includes “La La Land,” “Moulin Rouge!,” and “Romeo + Juliet.” The musical numbers are legitimately well-done—funny, witty, and sometimes even moving. Jackson and Sharp are at their best when projecting ridiculous lyrics into each other’s faces, and Lane & Mullally are having an absolute blast.
A lot of viewers will, too. Of course, Trevor and Craig learn that being alpha males isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and that reuniting their parents won’t solve all their problems. “Dicks: The Musical” lands in a place that encourages everyone just to love one another, setting aside all sense of decorum and even legality in the name of whatever makes you happy. In an age of such deep cynicism, there’s something almost urgent about a film that accepts anything you want to be. Be an old kook, a closeted dad, a sewer boy, or whatever makes you happy. Just don’t be a dick.
This review was filed from the premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Dicks: The Musical” opens on September 29th.
Dicks: The Musical (2023)
Aaron Jacksonas Trevor Brock
Josh Sharpas Craig Tiddle
Megan Thee Stallion
Bowen Yangas God
- Larry Charles
- Josh Sharp
- Aaron Jackson
- Michelle Lawler
- Al LeVine
- Marius De Vries
- Karl Saint Lucy