Daily Projections, 5-20-2019: Bugsy Malone (1976)

Title: Bugsy Malone
Director: Alan Parker
Country of Origin: USA / UK
Year: 1976
Screening format: Streaming
Setting: home
First viewing? yes

A musical comedy about 1920s gangsters starring a cast of literal children. An interesting concept to say the least. Parker cleverly eschews the immensely disturbing image of children mowing each other down with Tommy guns by making the “Splurge Gun” (which fires whipped cream) the weapon of choice for these babyfaced racketeers. Performances from a very young Scott Baio and Taxi Driver era Jodie Foster are the obvious highlights of this juvenile production, though first (and last) timer Florrie Dugger handles the slang laden adult dialog admirably. While some of Paul Williams’ score plays true to the time period (namely the showgirl numbers taking place in Fat Sam’s Speakeasy – mostly), others veer more in the direction of the pop songs he was and is best known for (“Just An Old Fashioned Love Song”). Of the latter, the hypnotic softshoe rhythms of “Tomorrow” are a particular highlight. There’s a lot to love about the genuinely funny Bugsy Malone, from the remarkably mature performances from Baio and Foster, who are in a class of their own here, to the beautifully realistic looking pedal cars the characters “drive” around town. The only real complaint I have (one shared by the director) is the choice to dub the kids’ singing with adult singing voices. It’s blatantly obvious, looks beyond bizarre, and is puzzling to the point of distraction.

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