Review By Liam O Brien, 2 out of 5
I tried to like this movie, I really did. After getting the review disc, I had to put my sheer dislike of musicals behind me and go into this like every other review job: with an open mind. That’s my reviewers mantra; every job is treated the same and given a fair chance. Although this is not my usual sort of dvd purchase (no guns, aliens, sex, puppets, time lords) I gave it a go. And, the result was pretty much what I had feared- this is a showcase of the brats of the world- you know, the kids who are in all the school plays, the kids with the parents who tell everyone how “they’ve got real talent!.”Yes ladies and gentlemen, Bugsy Malone is the most expensive school play ever. The basic premise is interesting to say the least- a gangster story, and a musical all rolled into one. But the twist is this- all the roles are filled by children, about thirteen to fifteen years old, not one legal driver among them. Let’s get this straight, the idea is one of the few things going for this picture. It’s a wildly imaginative idea, and kudos to the exec who greenlit Bugsy, because even if the film that was ultimately produced is weak it was an idea that needed to be tried. Another plus is the brilliant production design. The sets are of a standard rarely seen in the seventies, with street after street and club after club perfectly capturing the essence of the world of seedy mobs in the thirties. Also, the vehicles and weapons are very cleverly done (the cars are pedal driven, the guns fire creamUmmmm tasty violence.)
But, the rest of the film is troubled. The first ten/fifteen minutes are promising, with the levels of interest kept by the idea that kids are in a picture all on their own, and Director Alan Parker’s opening shots working well and promising somethingUsomething that is sadly not delivered, and that something is a good film. The script is a problem, it has trouble gelling the two plot threads together (The Bugsy/Blousey romance and the turf war between the gangs) and its all resolved too fast. It has a problem finding a feel for the picture also- it shifts between comedy, romance and some sort of mob film, but its not dark enough. Lines and gangster clich?clang into place with the precision of an elephant playing Tetris, and to be frank, this film just isn’t funny enough to be a comedy. Another of Parker’s problems is his cast- apart from a frankly stunning Jodie Foster showing us how damn good she was then (and still is now) the rest of workforce lag behind. Baio’s Bugsy Malone lacks an interesting edge (ala Han Solo or James Bond) to be a convincing edge and the laboured performance is dull, snapping off the one liners with all the charisma of the keyboard im currently working on. Blousey Brown is also played inefectally-she should be a sexy singer not a sulky crybaby. As for the rest, a few performances are a level up from the other kiddies (Fat Sam, Dandy Dan) but that’s the exception, not the rule.
This film was always going to live or die on the quality of its songs, and Paul Newman, who did so well on the Muppet Christmas Carol has a mixed level of quality here. Some songs work very well, including Best at being bad, Fat Sam’s Grand-slam speakeasy and, my brother’s personal fave So You wanna be a boxer? But other songs are slow, plodding and just very poor- Bugsy Malone theme, Down Down Down Down and I’m Feeling Fine. It’s a shame that the effect of some of these songs is also ruined by the fact that every cast member is dubbed with a singing voice so unlike their own it makes you wince at the poorness of it all. I tried to like this I really didN
THE DISCS: Its worth noting if you’re a fan of the music presented here then a bonus audio CD featuring tracks off the movie is given for free on the well priced ?2.99 release. The extras department is pretty well stocked- there are some nice character biog’s, concept art stills, trailers and other promotional material. But the real gem is a very good (better than the film!) Alan Parker commentary where he continually re-iterates his shock the thing ever got made in the first place! Better extras than the film deserves.
ANY GOOD?: No. Bugsy Malone suffers from a leaden script and a dead end (except Jodie Foster) cast. The direction promises more than it can hope to deliver and the songs are a mixed bag. It’s a good idea and it looks great but it simply wont all gel together, and the viewer comes away feeling glad its all just over. An interesting experiment at best.