By all accounts, a movie like Dicks: The Musical shouldn’t exist. Hollywood is getting increasingly safe, with blockbusters and franchises taking over the vast majority of cinema screens. Enter Dicks, a film whose existence feels like the very antithesis of modern popular filmmaking: it’s an incredibly outrageous and completely unconventional musical that only bold risk-takers like A24 could get behind. Directed by Larry Charles, it also just might be 2023’s queerest cinema experience.
Based on the off-Broadway musical Fucking Identical Twins, the film follows Trevor (Aaron Jackson) and Craig (Josh Sharp), two guys who have it all: significant wealth, great jobs, incredibly active sex lives—and enormous genitals. Trevor and Craig are also identical twins (despite looking absolutely nothing alike) though they don’t know it—they were separated at birth when their parents Evelyn (Megan Mullally) and Harris (Nathan Lane) got divorced.
A job transfer offers Trevor and Craig the opportunity to meet one another for the first time. After they passionately sing to one another about how nobody understands them, which leads to the revelation that they are, after all, fucking identical twins. Again, the pair look nothing alike, but it’s one of the infinite creative liberties that Dicks gets away with. Between this film and the recent comedy Bottoms, 2023 is well on its way to being the wildest, queerest year in cinemas.
Dicks then turns to the plan to bring the two families together: Josh and Aaron, riffing on The Parent Trap, swap identities in order to meet the mother/father they’ve never had the pleasure of knowing, and convince them to reunite with one another. A considerable (and hysterical) roadblock comes into play when both mother Evelyn and father Harris are, to put it gently, completely off their rockers. But so is pretty much everything in Dicks, which makes it one of the most delightful movies I’ve seen in a long time.
This is a film that relies on shock value, and it seeks to make you gasp and laugh every chance it gets. The cast is outstanding: Sharp and Jackson are completely committed to their ridiculous caricatures of masculinity. Mullally is the best she’s ever been as a serial liar and remarkably old Evelyn, while Lane commands every second he’s onscreen as the long-closeted (but now openly gay) Harris, who lives with the Sewer Boys, his very gross caged pets who are destined to be some of your favourite characters ever. Megan Thee Stallion is flawless in her film debut as the twins’ boss, Gloria Masters, a money-obsessed manager whose musical number “Out Alpha the Alpha” perfectly showcases her screen presence and musical ability. There’s also Bowen Yang as God, which I believe will eventually become the dictionary definition of “peak queerness.”
Any musical needs great songs to be worthwhile, and Dicks delivers them with a hearty dose of camp. Jackson and Sharp, who wrote the songs with non-binary composer Karl Saint Lucy, clearly have reverence for the musicals, delighting in subverting the genre with shocking, irreverent lyrics. They also hilariously deconstruct familiar song structures: In the “I Want” song (a familiar musical trope) “No One Understands,” the brothers sing, “No one knows what it’s like to be/ A man with my specific life/ Saying these specific words/ The only one who understands/ Is me.” The songs in Dicks seem to have one mission and one mission only: to make you laugh as much as possible, and they succeed admirably.
Dicks throws an awful lot at the viewer in its brief 86-minute runtime, delivering one musical number after another and offering queer subversion of every trope imaginable, all while introducing you to the strangest—yet most endearing—cast of characters. It does threaten to wear out its welcome in the final act, but comes back so strongly in its final moments with the boldest and loudest anthem of queer love imaginable (the aptly titled “All Love Is Love”) that I found myself immediately under the film’s spell again. Charles’s musical is strikingly self-aware, constantly mocking itself and the absurdity of everything that the film is doing, which really lets the writers and actors lean into the glorious madness of it all. There’s something truly special about this bonkers little musical.
The temptation will no doubt exist to wait for Dicks to hit streaming so you can enjoy it in the comfort of your own home. That’s completely understandable, but there’s something about the unhinged queerness and anarchic energy that runs through every second of the film that begs to be seen with the largest crowd possible. In all my movie-going years, I’ve never experienced a crowd like the one at the TIFF Midnight Madness premiere—and it’s one that deserves to be replicated in screenings around the country. Dicks: The Musical is the perfect crowd-pleasing movie for people who hate crowd-pleasing movies.
Dicks: The Musical is currently playing in select U.S. theatres and opens widely across North America on Oct. 20.