Cherry Pop *
Starring: Bob The Drag Queen, Detox Icunt, Latrice Royale, Tempest DuJour, Lars Berge, Miguel Sagaz, Misty Violet, Allusia Alusia, Mayhem Miller
Director: Assaad Yacoub
It’s great when the RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni go on to success with their personal projects after the show. From Adore Delano’s albums to Jinkx Monsoon’s theatre tours, many of the queens are genuinely talented artists straddling multiples oeuvres and genres. However, the majority of the queens are famous for their personalities and for some, making a film to capitalise on this would surely make perfect sense… right? Well as we saw with Bianca Del Rio’s bumbled prestige piece Hurricane Bianca, this is not necessarily the case. And with Cherry Pop, a film new on Netflix and intended to capitalise on the success and popularity of comic queen Bob The Drag Queen, they have fallen into exactly the same trap.
Cherry Pop is a failing drag bar. While a whole host of queens (Detox, Sagaz, Misty, Allusia, Mayhem) work in the bar, the show revolves around “popping the cherry” each night of a new drag queen for their very first performance. Lars Berge is The Cherry (we never actually find out his name), a straight first-time queen who is dipping his toe into the drag pond for the very first time. But as hostess Kitten Withawhip (Bob, credited as Caldwell Tidicue) tries to keep the show on course, the backstabbing, gossip and drama backstage seems set to inevitably ruin the night; not least with star talent Lady Zaza (DuJour), a queen on the brink of retirement who is determined that tonight is the night to kill herself. All the while, the tiny audience (led by Latrice Royale out of drag) is lapping up the lip-synched performances, each of an original piece of crude and gawdy music, written especially for the film.
The plot here is pretty flimsy, but with the right script, this could easily be a showcase for some talented and well-liked queens. But, unfortunately, the script is about as un-funny as a brick to the head. Add to that the weird insistence to centre a film about diverse drag performers around a straight, white male in his 20s and you’ve basically shot the entire premise of the film square in the face. Surely the target audience for this film will be the fans of Drag Race, so why on EARTH do we need this archaic narrative trope that basically makes us feel like we’re supposed to be laughing at the queens and not with them? That’s actually quite insulting.
Backstage, the characters are exaggerated, just as you might expect. Detox and Mayhem are at each other’s throats; Misty is trying to deal with a mother who can’t seem to understand what being gay means; Allusia is desperate to be an actor, but is terrible at actually acting. Tempest DuJour is hyper-camp, crazily over the top and reminiscent of La Cage Aux Folles, but while his performance is probably the strongest in the film, it is torn to shreds by sloppy editing and a narrative that basically makes his story irrelevant to the plot. In fact, all the stories are irrelevant to the plot, because where a film should equate to the sum of its parts, this is just a bag of flat one-liners and flouncy eye-rolls, which doesn’t equate to an actual movie.
The only laughs the film actually achieves are when Bob The Drag Queen is on stage as compère. But that being said, even then it desperately scrapes a chuckle from material that feels hurried and untested, when Bob’s off-the-cuff improvisation could have been so much funnier. In general, it feels like the script has sucked the life out of these queens, leaving them as dried out husks of what they are naturally. It just goes to underline that just because someone is a performer, it certainly doesn’t make them an actor. Subsequently for Cherry Pop, there is no skill on show here whatsoever, from either performers, writers or the director. Steer clear, folks, this is a terrible film.
OUT NOW ON NETFLIX.