The Birdcage (1996) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Birdcage (1996)



Critic Consensus: Mike Nichols wrangles agreeably amusing performances from Robin Williams and Nathan Lane in this fun, if not quite essential, remake of the French comedy La Cage aux Folles.

Movie Info

Director Mike Nichols teams up with his former partner/screenwriter Elaine May for the first time in many years and for the first time together in films to create this sophisticated, remake of the phenomenally popular French musical farce La Cage aux Folles that stars Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman and Diane Wiest as two dramatically disparate couples who manage to reconcile their vast differences for the sake of their children who are getting married. Williams plays Armand Goldman, the owner of a popular South Beach drag club known for putting on elaborate showcases starring his long-time lover/wife Albert (Lane) who appears as "Starina." Lately poor flamboyant, flighty Albert has been in crisis over the inexorable onset of middle age. He has been moody, paranoid and unbearably. When he gets too inconsolably distraught, handsome but clumsy houseboy Agador quietly slips Albert "Pirin" tablets (which he explains to Armand are simply Aspirin tablets with the "as" scraped off). Still though Albert can be a royal pain, Armand dearly loves him and the two live happily in their splendiferous apartment above the club. One day Armand's son Val (the result of Armand's single foray into straight sex) comes visiting with joyous news: he has found his dreamgirl and is getting married. The only trouble is, Barbara Keeley's father is the blustery ultra-religious right-wing Senator Keeley (Hackman), the founder of the Coalition for Moral Order. Senator Keeley and his colleagues are not as upright as they seem and when his closest associate is found dead beside a black, underage prostitute, Keeley finds his house surrounded by ravenous newshounds, hungry for dirt. Knowing that they are poised to ruin him, Keeley and his proper but slightly addled-wife (Wiest) decide that a big, elaborate, church wedding will be just the ticket to save his reputation. Barbara has neglected to tell them that Val's parents are gay, preferring to claim that they are members of the South Beach social elite. In a panic, she panics and calls Val who breaks the bad news to Armand and begs him to make the apartment less flamboyant and worst of all to hide Albert (who functioned as Val's mother while the youth grew up) during the visit. Armand is angry, but loving his son, finally, reluctantly agrees, knowing that he will deeply wound his companion. Unfortunately, Albert finds out and as a compromise tries to learn how to be macho so he can pretend to be Val's uncle, he is too much the Great Dame to ever pass as one of the guys and so is banned from the party. Armand then locates Catherine and asks her to masquerade as his wife. She agrees to show up later that evening. Meanwhile their friends busily redecorate the apartment until it looks as if it were done in "Early Inquisition." During the fateful dinner party, Catherine is late and Albert gets uproarious revenge. Achingly comic chaos ensues as Armand tries to hold the increasingly tenuous evening together while outside the newshounds bay and threaten to make even more trouble for Senator Keely.more
Rating: R (adult situations/language)
Genre: Gay & Lesbian, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Elaine May
In Theaters:
On DVD: Mar 25, 1997
MGM Home Entertainment


Robin Williams
as Armand Goldman
Nathan Lane
as Albert/Starina
Gene Hackman
as Sen. Keeley
Dianne Wiest
as Louise Keeley
Dan Futterman
as Val Goldman
Calista Flockhart
as Barbara Keeley
Tom McGowan
as Harry Radman
Grant Heslov
as Photographer
Kirby Mitchell
as Chauffeur
Luis Camacho
as Goldman Girl
Andre Fuentes
as Goldman Girl
Stanley de Santis
as TV Man in Van
Scott Kaske
as Goldman Girl
Tim Kelleher
as Waiter in Club
Ann Cusack
as TV Woman in Van
Stanley DeSantis
as TV Man in Van
J. Roy Helland
as Club Hostess
Anthony Giaimo
as Fishmonger
Lee Delano
as Bakery Man
David Sage
as Senator Eli Jackson
Mike Kinsley
as TV Host
Tony Snow
as TV Host
Dorothy Constantine
as Keeley's Maid
Trina McGee-Davis
as Black Girl On TV
Andres Fuentes
as Goldman Girls
Barry Nolan
as TV Reporter
Amy Powell
as TV Reporter
Ron Pitts
as TV Reporter
James Hill
as TV Reporter
Mary Major
as TV Reporter
Steven Porfido
as State Trooper
John D. Pontrelli
as Waiter in Cafe
Herschel Sparber
as Big Guy in Park
Ronald Pitts
as TV Reporter
John Pontrelli
as Waiter In Cafe
Francesca Cruz
as Katharine's Secretar...
Brian Reddy
as TV Editor
Jim Jansen
as TV Editor
Al Rodrigo
as Latino Man In Club
Kevin Stea
as Goldman Girls
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Birdcage

Critic Reviews for The Birdcage

All Critics (47) | Top Critics (12)

This isn't the supreme masterpiece it might have been, but Nichols's direction is very polished and some of the lines and details are awfully funny.

Full Review… | May 29, 2011
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

If The Birdcage isn't exactly the Mike Nichols-Elaine May movie of our dreams, it does manage to transform what was formerly a campy bit of French fluff into one of the loopiest, most hysterical family-values movies ever made.

Full Review… | May 27, 2011
Washington Post
Top Critic

The Birdcage is a scream.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

It doesn't so much champion diversity as celebrate conformity.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

A glossy miscalculation with Nathan Lane and Robin Williams.

Full Review… | June 18, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

What makes Mike Nichols' version more than just a retread is good casting in the key roles, and a wicked screenplay by Elaine May, who keeps the original story but adds little zingers here and there.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Birdcage

Accomplished comedy, The Birdcage is a well acted and directed picture that boasts a stunning cast of talented actors, a great story, a well thought out script and is a an engaging film that features a wonderful performance from late, great actor Robin Williams. Aside from Williams, there are plenty of great performances here, especially that of Hank Azaria. The story has a fine blend of comedy with serious overtones in a way that makes The Birdcage standout. The cast elevate the material, and under the direction of Mike Nichols, he crafts a near perfect film that relies on effective, memorable performances to really make this standout. We can see the result on-screen. The Birdcage works very well and is a fun, entertaining film that is funny, dramatic and features an impressive story that is sure to delight any viewer wanting a comedy with depth and great performances. The film may have few weak areas that could have been improved upon, but as a whole, the film has stronger points rather than weak points, and it's a film that embraces the fact that it has aspects that don't quite work, and runs with it due to the fact that a great portion of the material is well executed, and that the cast that director Nichols works with does so much to make the story and tone of the film be enjoyable for the viewer. The Birdcage may not be great cinema, but it's definitely one of those films that features a heartfelt, amusing performance by Robin Williams and with that being said, at least we have gems like this to revisit him even if he's gone. He was a talented comedian and actor, and he was able to adapt his unique style to any genre, and even if this film is a comedy, he added a serious angle to his role that just showed how great he really was.

Alex roy

Super Reviewer


With a deliciously flamboyant Nathan Lane stealing the scene and Robin Williams in a greatly nuanced composition, this fun comedy also boasts elaborate camera movements and knows really well how funny it is, not even resorting to any sort of cute music to underline its humor.

Carlos Magalh„es

Super Reviewer

GURL! You gotta see it! So many one-liners, I can't even begin to rattle them off.

Christian C

Super Reviewer

The Birdcage Quotes

– Submitted by Loren T (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Christian C (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Christian C (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Jillian L (2 years ago)

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