By Owen Gleiberman
Updated October 29, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

Intentional camp tends to weigh down the screen like soggy fruitcake, so one can be forgiven for cringing at the prospect of Die Mommie Die! It’s based on a play by its star, Charles Busch, who puts on a frowsy brunet wig to play Angela Arden, a fallen ’50s pop diva who presides over a family of warring hysterics.

At first, the chintzy, lavishly layered fusion of ”Mildred Pierce,” ”All That Heaven Allows,” and ”What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” makes you think you’ve wandered into Mel Brooks’ ”Far From Heaven.” Busch, looking like a depressed Stockard Channing, throws his tantrums with breathy ”aristocratic” hauteur. Yet the movie winds up walking a line between put-on pastiche and kitsch passion, and Jason Priestley is perfect as a brooding lunkhead of Tab Hunter gigolo-osity.

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