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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Way back when there were studios..., 18 August 1999

...they made movies with comic premises, story structure, and denoument. This movie has them all, and most comedies by comparison are puffed-up TV fare.

The tone is almost European: There are no good guys, and the protagonist is willing, even eager, for his wife to be killed by her kidnappers.

Forget nudity or explicit violence. You know you're watching a film for grown-ups when it's willing to plumb the depths of this situation for the comic gold within, not just string a few gags on it.

Highest accolades all around.

A 1950 Mickey-and-Judy with better songs and dancing., 2 August 1999

Of the movies with Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, this is the least satisfying package, marks no advance from "For Me and My Gal", and a step back from "The Pirate". If you're looking for a modern backstager, advance directly to "Singin in the Rain".

Musically, the goods are delivered. Harold Arlen can't help writing songs like Harold Arlen, so there's choice stuff in the score. Deservedly famous are Judy's singing "Get Happy", and Gene's simple newspaper dance. The only other memorable numbers aren't "on stage" ("Howdy Neighbor", "Dig for your Supper", and "You Wonderful You"). Any wonder that they're the ones which advance the plot?

The real comic sparks are provided by Eddie Bracken. From the same corner of his mined by Preston Sturges, he's allergic to all things agricultural, a doormat son of the town's store-owner, who somehow is engaged to Judy. In many scenes his father does the speaking for him, to his fiance. Finally reaching his limit, he snaps back at his father with great effect. This comic buildup and payoff is about the only humor in this film to compare with (again) "The Pirate" and "Singin in the Rain", and for that reason seems very out of place.

More old-fashioned mistakes: Is there anything so obvious as that first rehearsal scene, where you hear Hans Conried and Gloria DeHaven (Big Name Star and Misled Little Sister) sing? Okay, you realize they're marking time til Gene and Judy "become the stars", but still, you immediately know he's not of this universe, he's planting those Prima Donna ideas in her head, and he's not going to be around when the curtain goes up.

From the book I was expecting something more along the lines of "For Me and My Gal" and "Miracle of Morgan's Creek" combined. Musically the movie is front-loaded with the best numbers (except "Get Happy"), so when the play-within-movie starts, it's a lame revue. This is not a convincing way to end a musical with the talent involved.

8 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Too tame by half, 19 July 1999

Too much given to the gee-whiz, what-can-Richie-afford, this movie needed to be much more crazy and whimsical, to fly in the face of the opulence onscreen. Good supporting cast mostly wasted.

The sole unexpected moment of delight was finding out our villain would stop at nothing to capture the "Rich family treasures", consisting of bronzed baby shoes, portraits, and favored toys & mementos.

Trip up our expectations once every few minutes, and let's talk.

By the way, how many other movie posters give away the ending?

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
"Uv cawss we tawk, doan ivverybuddy?", 10 July 1999

The songs: Beautifully simple and almost artless. You can't make this stuff up! And they didn't, cleverly going back to "Broadway Melody of 1929" and other MGM tuners of that era. I can't think of anything that would work better.

The dances: Big, bold and brash. There's a reason Hollywood made seemingly a thousand backstagers: I can't imagine a natural story being served well by the numbers for "Fit as a Fiddle", "Singin in the Rain", and the Broadway number.

The comedy: What confidence and self-assuredness to bait us through the first ~20 minutes until Lina Lamont squawks "Uv cawss we tawk, doan ivverybuddy?" Sometimes the more sumptuous and MGM-ized a musical, the weaker the comedy content. Not here.

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Too dull and yet silly at the same time., 2 June 1999

Susan Isaacs' script goes needlessly into the supernatural. The production goes hopelessly into the white bread with leads like Long and Bernsen. One can only wonder how WASP-ily washed out this was made in conference, as Isaacs' settings are typically on Long Island or (from her own life) among the Jewish neighborhoods of Queens.

For a great story on the much the same plot points, read her 1993 novel "After All These Years". To see an actress who can connect with an Isaacs script, find "Compromising Positions"; it's just one more reason to appreciate Susan Sarandon.

9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
The kind of wartime history pic you don't see often, 1 June 1999

War movies are typically shown on TV for Memorial Day, and this one about tops them all. On the one hand, it's old-Hollywood style so you have to know how to "watch" it--a woman carrying a big stuffed animal is pregnant, for example. On the other hand, there's minimal war footage and jingoism, uncommon for a wartime movie. It shows, rather than tells, which gives it much more power. Deeply moving after more than half a century.

That's all?, 19 May 1999

This movie seems to be a collision of some '30s weepie remake with Helen Hunt, a TV movie about a gay artist finding his dignity, and "The Man Who Came to Dinner". Pick a path, just one, please, and the very worthwhile star turns by Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt would be so more fulfilling. Hunt takes the measure of Nicholson's screen presence and matches it, commanding our attention by not calling desperately for it. That's enough to offset the meandering plot and road trip, even.

One last comment, appropriated from elsewhere: In real life, when a woman over 20 years of age hears a man say, "You make me want to be a better person," her immediate response is "Good. Go away, become one, and then we'll talk." That this movie misses this point really is it in a nutshell.

Rating: See it on an airplane. You can discuss it with your spouse/other and not disturb others.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Three things distinguish this flick from other Xmas evergreens you run across on cable..., 12 May 1999

The 30s-style zip and effervescence show up for about the last time in a musical screenplay. After this, there's generally much sweeter stuff for decades with only a few exceptions (i.e. Comden & Green). As in the best RKO Astaire and Rogers films, you're transported to that magical place and time where you can make a grand living headlining at a swank nightclub. In that regard, B&W is a perfect choice for this movie; color would only destroy the reverie and bring up much tamer stuff, such as 1954's "White Christmas".

Being born brother to the star may have given Bob Crosby and his Bobcats the job of doing "musical treatments". I don't know. All I can say is, bravo to putting a real swing band to work on a movie! The hot numbers have quite a verve to them, rather than an overload of strings and disembodied chorals. It's sweet revenge for every backstager movie with a soundtrack that would be hooted off the stage in real life.

And finally, everyone knows the songs "White Christmas" and "Easter Parade" are deserved perennials. However, some of the other tunes are neglected. Irving Berlin's songwriting mathematics dictate that from over a dozen songs, he'd write more than two very good ones. "I'll Capture Your Heart Singing", "You're Easy to Dance With", "I've Got Plenty to be Thankful For" and "Be Careful it's My Heart" all have inviting tunes, with lyrics that range from neatly clever to not bad at all. Avoiding embarrassment is an accomplishment given the subjects--just you try writing a song about Washington's birthday!