March 11, 1996 12:00 PM

Robin Williams, Nathan Lane

This dexterous remake of La Cage aux Folks is an improvement on the original, which reduced homosexuals to squawking, brightly colored exotics—parrots, basically.

Williams plays a gay nightclub owner whose son (Dan Futterman) comes to visit with an unusual request. Futterman, engaged to the daughter of a rising right-wing Republican—a taller Buchanan (Gene Hackman)—is afraid to introduce the prospective in-laws to Williams and his lover, a drag queen (Lane) who performs at the club. The son asks Williams to, in effect, stash Lane in the closet and play straight.

Director Mike Nichols keeps the plot, with its assortment of concealed identities, spinning along gracefully, though Lane has pitched his camp way too high. Looking a little like Truman Capote (and, in one getup, Rosemary Clooney), he does a full-throttle diva turn, pouting, screaming, weeping. Williams, on the other hand, is unusually sensitive. He lets a lot of bruised hurt seep through the comic froth. (R)

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