This movie is Texas AF. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s about southern belles named Willowdean, Teen Bluebonnet beauty pageants, and Dolly Parton (I associate Dolly more with Tennessee, but that’s just me). Dumplin’ stars Danielle MacDonald as the aformentioned Willowdean Dickson (but call her Will, and try not to think about Stranger Things when you do), the daughter of the town’s most well-known ex-pageant winner. Will’s mama is off being beautiful, so Will is raised mostly by her aunt Lucy, who’s larger than life, and no, I’m not referring to her size. Will, being a bigger girl herself, is anti-pageant, mainly because she never sees anyone up on that stage who looks like her. Aunt Lucy passes away, and Will and mama Rosie’s relationship continues on as strained as ever it was (where’s Daddy? who knows?), especially since Rosie insists on calling Will “Dumplin’,” even in public.
Will works as a waitress at the town’s burger joint, where she trades one-liners with her crush named Bo (I guess it’s better than Zeke, or JimBob). She remains anti-pageant, until she finds an application for Miss Teen Bluebonnet that was partially filled out by Lucy. Will decides to enter the pageant to honor Lucy’s memory, and to protest the pageant institution as a whole. In Texas. Really.
Will is soon joined in her cause by Hannah, a cookie-cuttered, buzzcut, black-wearing feminista, fuller-figured schoolmate Millie, and her BFF Ellen. Will and Hannah are there to be the fly in the ointment, while both Millie and Ellen wouldn’t mind at all if they actually won Miss Teen Bluebonnet. Will and “the weirdos” get some unexpected assistance from a group of drag queens who are probably even bigger Dolly fans than she is. With the help of them, and a Magic 8 Ball, Will starts to take the whole thing a little bit more seriously. The winner of the pageant ends up being a non-issue, as most of the fun is had along the way.
Plotwise or scriptwise, Dumplin’ doesn’t tread a whole lot of new ground, but it’s funny where it needs to be, well-acted, and very easy to watch. But, if you have an aversion to country music in general, and Dolly Parton music in particular, you might wanna skip this one. Jennifer Aniston (the only person who could steal me away from Sandra Bullock) does a fine job as Will’s mama. Millie is flat out adorable, and the issue of Hannah’s sexual orientation isn’t even brought up because, simply, it’s not important, nor should it be. And, every body is a swimsuit body, dammit. Four out of five stars.