“It’s a good thing I was born Dolly Partin, otherwise I’d have been a drag queen.” That quote says most of what you need to know about Dumplin’, a walk down memory lane with Dolly Partin songs and quotes. Or, how about, “the way I see it, if you want to see the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain.” Clearly, I am not as enamored with this movie as the critics and the audience. I describe this movie as “corny.” Lots of folks might say Dolly Partin is corny, yet they still love her and her music. A little more Dolly and her music, and Dumplin’ would rate a better score with me. I give it 2.5 Gavels and it receives a 71% Rotten Tomatoes rating (only 24 reviews) and 87% Audience score.
Rosie Dickson, 1991 Miss Teen Bluebonnet winner, is now its longtime pageant organizer. Too busy for her child, Willowdean’s care was the purview of Aunt Lucy, recently deceased. Aunt Lucy, a plus size herself, taught Willowdean everything, including a love for all things Dolly Partin. Certain that her mother is embarrassed about her appearance, Willowdean decides to “blow up” the pageant. That causes her best friend, Ellen, to also enter, a more traditional choice. Moreover, it causes untraditional choices, Millie and Hannah, to jump in. With only a few weeks to get ready, these girls find help in an unusual place. Think Kinky Boots!
Jennifer Aniston is the big name actor, but this subdued Southern role just doesn’t fit her comedic talents. Danielle McDonald plays Willowdean, the girl who constantly hears fat jokes. She is the girl who knows that “a guy like you doesn’t date girls like me.” Yet, her refusal to let her size define her makes this movie tick. Odeya Rush as Ellen, Maddie Baillio as Millie, and Bex Taylor-Klaus as Hannah are the three amigos (shown above). All three are quite good.
For a comedy, Dumplin’ has few laughs. Once our main characters seek inspiration at a Dolly Partin-themed bar, things pick up. Somewhat unexpectedly for Texas, the performers are drag queens. Friends of Aunt Lucy, those in drag help Willowdean understand that we can celebrate our differences. “No rule says big girls can’t apply,” and win! In a spoiler alert, she wins and she doesn’t win. This is a movie about acceptance and tolerance. It tries too hard with too many stereotypes. Dolly Partin says “it costs a lot of money to look this cheap.” Dumplin‘ cost a lot of money and looks preachy. The message is well-intended, but sometimes you don’t have to beat us over our heads with it.