(director: Anne Fletcher; screenwriter: Kristin Hahn/adapted from the novel by Julie Murphy; cinematographer: Elliot Davis; editor: Emma E. Hickox; music: Jake Monaco; cast: Danielle Macdonald (Willowdean Dickson/Dumplin’), Jennifer Aniston (Rosie), Odeya Rush (Ellen), Hilliary Begley (Aunt Lucy), Maddie Baillio (Millie), Luke Benward (Bo), Bex Taylor-Klaus (Hannah), Georgie Flores (Callie), Dove Cameron (Bekah), Harold Perrineau (Lee); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Michael Costigan, Mohamed Alrafi, Kristin Hahn, Trish Hofmann; Netflix; 2018)
“Not as bad as it sounds, as it enables the release of some smart emoting, plenty of sequins and some satisfying homespun humor.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A warm and fuzzy comedy with life-lessons against bigotry directed effortlessly by Anne Fletcher (“Hot Pursuit”/”The Guilt Trip”) for the small-town Clover City, Texas folks or other country musical fans. Kristin Hahn adapts it from the YA novel by Julie Murphy. The background soundtrack is filled with Dolly Parton songs, but no film appearance from the legendary country queen. The film was released directly to Netflix for streaming. The self-absorbed Rosie (Jennifer Aniston) won the 1991 Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant (in fact she won it ten times), which she now proudly directs when not working at her nursing home gig. Her plump 17-year-old daughter, Willowdean Dickson (Danielle Macdonald, Australian actress), a high school senior and diner waitress, endearingly nicknamed Dumplin’ by mom as a child has grown out of that name and now hates it. Mom’s main concern is that her pageant, established in 1933, is facing its own competition from an upstart, Miss Teen Sweetwater (“Hashtag pop!”).Willowdean was primarily raised by her mother’s large-sized sister Lucy (Hilliary Begley), who just passed away. Feeling flighty over her beloved aunt’s death, the Dolly lovin’ Dumplin’ enters the current Miss Teen Bluebonnet competition in order to embarrass mom. Her daring act, inspires the obese Millicent Michalchuk (Maddie Baillio) and lesbian Hannah (Bex Taylor-Klaus) to also enter the pageant, along with Willowdean’s lifelong best-friend Ellen (Odeya Rush). These new type of entrants revolutionize the pageant. When overmatched in the talent segment, a band of local Parton-worshipping drag queens – led by the merry Lee (Harold Perrineau), come to the rescue the unusual contestants and save them from embarrassment. It’s not as bad as it sounds, as it enables the release of some smart emoting, plenty of sequins and some satisfying homespun humor.
REVIEWED ON 1/1/2019 GRADE: B-