Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bam Bam & Celeste: Grade B

Bam Bam & Celeste (2007)
Margaret Cho, Bruce Daniels, Alan Cumming, John Cho. Director Lorene Machado

Standup comic Cho wrote this 2005 comedy which I never heard of until it recently came out on DVD. It is her first narrative film, the story of a gay hairdresser (Daniels) and his gay girlfriend (Cho) who want to escape their small, Midwestern town where they are treated badly because they are different. They win an appearance on a beauty “makeover” show in New York (run by Cumming), so they head for the big city in their hot pink Civic festooned with plastic flowers. They have a couple of humorous adventures along the way and do well in the contest. I think the target audience is primarily teens and subteens who feel rejected by society for being gay or being “ugly,” whatever they think that is. Cho wears preposterous gothic outfits to help young girls identify with the rejectionist theme. During the journey, ignorant, racist, homophobic, and just plain mean people abuse the pair but they soldier on. In the end they demonstrate that real beauty is within. This is pretty sappy stuff, but the lines and situations serve up a few witty, if predictable social criticisms. Cho has always spoken out for social acceptance of homosexuality, and in this film she reaches out to socially rejected youth. If any of them sees this film, I think they will appreciate it, and that is surely a better diversion than more lethal ones they might consider. For an adult audience though, even including those of us who have enjoyed Cho’s standup acts, this film is only mildly amusing. The best bit is Margaret playing “Mommy,” her much-beloved Korean mother with fractured English. Individual scenes are witty and creative (what could top magic wand eyelash curlers?) but not with the stinging, sharply observed humor we expect from Cho. Acting is strong by Cumming and John Cho (no relation), much less so from Daniels. The overall storyline is lame, however, and the directing unremarkable. I rate the movie above average for its wit and because I admire Cho’s attempt to speak to troubled youth.

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