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The early life and struggles of Judy Garland (portrayed by Andrea McArdle), and of the film star's trials as a youngster in dealing with the Movie Studio system that held her back while her mother was forever pushing her to excel. Written by
BOB STEBBINS <email@example.com>
Fan-magazine equivalent of a biography, in this case a television-budget glimpse into the early life of actress and vocalist Judy Garland (née Frances Gumm). Director Jackie Cooper, who reminds us he befriended the real Judy during their years together at M-G-M, lays the pathos at our feet right from the start, with Broadway's Andrea McArdle belting out a lonesome "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows", followed by a reprise of the song fifteen minutes later! Cooper, and writer John McGreevey (working from a sub-standard book by Christopher Finch), perhaps were hoping to show us Judy's natural pluck and verve despite upheavals in the Gumm household--but, if so, somebody forgot to tell young McArdle. With her hangdog face, crooked mouth and watery eyes, she's about as far from plucky as a Garland substitute can be. Obviously chosen for the part due to her stage pipes as the original "Annie", McArdle has apparently studied Judy Garland but doesn't attempt an imitation (perhaps unwisely, considering the results we do get); with a trained voice so one-dimensional it is practically soulless, McArdle seems zombie-fied, metallic. Cooper stages innumerable scenes around the piano with McArdle in song--always surrounded by adults nodding to each other, pretending to find her adorable--but never gets at what was so unique about Judy Garland. She appears to us to be just another kid songbird. The Hollywood studio sequences are also underwhelming, with key details and conversations coming off as suspect (made worse by repetitive moments, poor editing and mediocre acting). One can only scoff at what amounts to be a woe-is-me look at a poor little rich girl, one who finds herself wondering aloud, "When will I be in the right place at the right time?" as she walks the lot of the biggest movie studio in the world.
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