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Film review: Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The

If you enjoyed "La Cage aux Folles," you'll probably get a kick out of "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert." This is an Australian take on some of the same themes, essentially the story of two transvestites and a transsexual who travel through the outback, shocking the locals as they pass through a number of small towns.

The "Priscilla" of the title is actually a run-down school bus, which they paint pink during their journey halfway across Australia. Their destination is a resort, where they are booked to perform their drag-queen act, which consists largely of lip-syncing old disco tunes (Abba, Gloria Gaynor, etc.).

The trio is comprised of Bernadette (Terence Stamp), who is grieving over the loss of his/her longtime companion, and who acts as mother hen to the group; Tick/

Mitzi (Hugo Weaving), the trio's nominal leader and most conflicted of the bunch; and Adam/-Felicia (Guy Pearce), bouncy and energetic and simply out for a good time.

Outrageous, in a calculated way, the film's success relies heavily on the players, and fortunately, Stamp, Weaving and Pearce are up for it. In fact, they seem to be having a great time, flamboyantly prancing in their impossibly complicated Vegas showgirl outfits, which are both stunning and appalling, adding greatly to the comic effect.

For those familiar with Stamp's earlier work (from "Billy Budd" to the chief villain in "Superman II"), just seeing him in these get-ups is worth the admission price.

Essentially, what we have here is a one-joke movie, however, and it gets a bit sluggish sometimes, as the bus continually breaks down and the boys strut their stuff for aborigines or rough-and-tumble barflies, to jaw-dropping reactions. (And, sometimes, punch-in-the-jaw reactions.)

The fact that it works as well as it does can be attributed directly to the genuine, rooted performances of three leads, in what could have been artificial, stereotypical caricatures. But instead, there is some real feeling here as we gradually come to understand the characters.

"The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" is rated R for considerable foul language, as well as some partial nudity, violence and drugs.