“To Wong Foo” was an especially curious film for me when I was twelve as I was admittedly not at all aware of what Drag Queens were. All I knew about “To Wong Foo” then is that it starred three of my favorite movie stars dressed as women. While the trailers completely advertised the film as men who dress as women for some kind of action oriented premise, I was surprised that it was a lot better than that. “To Wong Foo” isn’t a masterpiece, but through and through it’s a charming and funny drama comedy about acceptance, and enduring through pain.
Friends Noxeema Jackson, Vida Boheme, and Chi Chi Rodriguez are three stars of New York’s drag-queen beauty pageant circuit, and hit the open road in a 1967 Cadillac convertible. They hope to hit Hollywood and make their dreams come true. But the trio is in for a detour when the car breaks down in the tiny midwestern town of Snydersville. Up to now Snydersville has been a lot more like a graveyard than a small community. That’s all about to change. During the course of a weekend, the trio of drag queens befriend and bond with the townees, changing their lives, and learning a thing or two about themselves in the process.
Snipes, Swayze and Leguizamo are quite good in their performances as the respective drag queens that find some kind of purpose during their weekend. Leguizamo is especially good as Chi Chi Rodriguez presenting a very attractive persona and seemingly having a good time in the character’s skin. Writer Douglas Carter Beane hints at back stories for the trio throughout their road trip, and confronts a lot of stereotypes concerning the Gay community and Drag Queens in general. Noxeema even takes a moment to explain to Chi Chi (and let’s face it: the audience) what the difference is between various sexualities including the Drag Queen. Kidron manages to balance the tone of comedy and drama well as Swayze’s Vida Boheme finds a friend in house wife Carol Ann, (Stockard Channing) who is being beaten by her husband.
Noxeema manages to break through to a local many assumed was catatonic, thanks to their shared love of classic Hollywood, and Chi Chi finds potential romance with young Bobby Ray (Jason London), who is unaware of her drag persona. A lot of “To Wong Foo” is heavily based around the trio of drag queens and how they’ve managed to walk through so many obstacles to learn to accept themselves. While director Beeban Kidron primarily creates a comedy based around a cliché concept of an outside element stirring up a small town of simple town folks, “To Wong Foo” manages to be much more than that. We get some true insight in to the trio of women and how they relate to their newfound friends in the small town.
Along the way there are some solid laughs, and genuinely touching moments. Your mileage may vary with “To Wong Foo,” but I had a great time with it and its positive message about self love and acceptance.
Featured in the new release from Shout Select, there’s “Easy Rider in Dresses: The Making of To Wong Foo,” a fifty two minute featurette with Screenwriter Douglas Carter Bean, Director Beeban Kidron, and Star John Leguizamo. There’s some looks at B Roll video footage, looks at production, scrip development, costumes, make up, and some great anecdotes including how Snipes personally sought out the role, and the infamous fight that broke out between Swayze and Leguizamo. We also get a look at Robin Williams’ surprise cameo, and how Steven Spielberg managed to aide in the production. There are eleven deleted scenes clocking in at fifteen minutes, all of which aren’t all that important. Finally there’s the Theatrical Trailer, a TV Spot, VHS promo for retailers, and a Soundtrack Ad.