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Contemporary rethinking of the legendary Broadway musical and 1962 film, updated to reflect a few early twenty-first-century sensibilities: A masterful con artist tries to bilk a staid Midwestern community, with unexpected results. Written by
First, I would like to say that I have been in the play of it and now have seen both screen versions. This one made me sick.
Now for the actors; let's take the star first - Matthew Broderick. I must say, that is one of the most unemotional performances I have ever had the mischance of observing. Where was all the energy in "76 Trombones"? I read previous reviews that cited required subtlety of screen performances as an excuse. Without energy, without enthusiasm, without the wild, inclusive gestures, HH could not have POSSIBLY "hoodwinked" an entire town. Without getting them whipped into a frenzy in "Trouble," why would there be an need for a boy's band? They didn't even show any knickerbockers "buckled below the knees"! Broderick's singing I shan't comment on. I agree, Robert Preston did not have a good singing voice - but his sincerity made it all right despite his limited ability. Besides that, Preston's acting more than made up for his voice. Broderick should have stayed as Inspector Gadget. He plays a good robot, even when he doesn't mean to.
Next, Kristin Chenoweth. Admittedly, she has a very good singing voice. My main complaint is the "modern" sound of her voice. She croons it and these songs were not meant to be crooned. They should be sung straight-forwardly and in an old-fashioned way. The quality of her voice was not pure enough. Besides that, her speaking voice annoyed the heck out of me. If you'll pardon the expression, she reminds me almost of a female Fred Allen, speaking through her nose all the time. I felt more sincerity from Chenoweth than I did from Broderick but not by much. I think she was the most convincing actor in the movie.
Victor Garber as Mayor Shinn was awful. I felt NOTHING from him. His part was VERY funny; he did not play it up nearly as much as he could have, or should have. Debra Monk as Mrs. Paroo needs to take a few lessons in an Irish accent. Had I not known the play/movie (despite the one line "But Professor, we ARE Irish!"), I wouldn't have been able to tell that they were supposed to be Irish! Take it from an Irish woman, Molly Shannon as Mrs. Shinn needs to be more in-your-face. She needs to bawl out "BALZAC!" for heaven's sake!
By far the most annoying things about it are the political correctness and historical inaccuracies. I am not racist. However, there would have NEVER been black people integrated like that in a 1912 town! Mrs. Squires is a black woman married to a white Jacey Squires in the quartet. In the library scene, a white boy and black girl look adoringly at each other. Never would that have been accepted at that time. I have no problem with that but people in a 1912 Iowa town would most certainly have had! Also, did anyone else notice how many stars were on the flag? Uh, I don't think so. Way too many. Also, Mrs. Paroo mentions Flag Day. Again, this is in 1912. If you do a little research, you'll find that Flag Day was instituted in 1916 by Woodrow Wilson.
I would not recommend this movie to my worst enemy.
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