Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bugsy Malone

A very curious movie, Bugsy Malone, will be airing tomorrow (June 30) at 2:00 PM on Cinémoi, for those of you who get that channel. (It will be on again at 11:00 AM Friday.) It's curious because it fits several genres: it's a children's gangster musical.

The movie starts off with Fat Sam (John Cassini) doing a voiceover narration about Roxy Robinson, an adolescent dressed up like a 1920s gangster. In fact, the voiceover implies that Roxy has wound up on the wrong side of a gang war, because he winds up in a blind alley where several juvenile gangsters pull out their gats and shoot him! But, the only thing is, the guns shoot cream puffs. Still, the cream puff shots seem to be fatal, and that's something that obviously seems to trouble Fat Sam, who is a juvenile himself. He's the leader of the gang that's on the wrong side of this 1920s gangland violence.

In fact, as you've probably figured out by now, all of the characters in this movie are played by juvenile actors. And, in fact, the movie is set in the 1920s, as Fat Sam is the owner of a speakeasy where the entertainment is provided by Tallulah (Jodie Foster) and her backup dancers. Although Tallulah shows up throughout the movie, she's not really the main plot. That main plot involves those creampuff-shooting guns, or "splurge guns", as they're called in the movie. Apparently, splurge guns are a new weapon, enabling the gang that possesses them to shoot other gangsters more efficiently. Up until now, Fat Sam and his gang have had to resort to literally throwing pies in their enemies' faces. So you can see why a splurge gun would be an effective weapon to have. And Dandy Dan (Martin Lev) and his gang have them!

As Fat Sam continues to lose members of his gang, he brings in Bugsy Malone (Scott Baio). Bugsy is a former boxer who, not being known as a member of Fat Sam's gang, ought to have more success at finding some of those splurge guns for what's left of Fat Sam's gang so that he can turn the tables on Dandy Dan. Meanwhile, Bugsy has a girlfriend, Blousy (Florrie Dugger), whom Bugsy has been stringing along by promising her he'd get her a tryout in Hollywood since she wants to be an actress. With Blousy wanting to be an actress and Tallulah the nightclub attraction, you know there are also going to be some musical numbers. At any rate, Bugsy is able to procure some of the splurge guns for Fat Sam, leading up to the climactic battle at his speakeasy....

Bugsy Malone is actually a charming little film. The juvenile actors are, for the most part, fairly good when they're acting. It helps that they have some humorous lines to deliver as well. The plot isn't anything special, but to be fair, the movie seems more conceived as an homage to the gangster genre, only with accommodations made for the fact that these are junior gangsters, molls, and hangers-on. In this respect it really succeeds. In fact, the only place where the movie really falls flat is in the musical numbers. The characters who get to do singing sound inconsistent; sometimes it sounds obviously juvenile in a bad way; other times it sounds too much as if the children are being dubbed. All in all, though, Bugsy Malone is a charming movie that, in spite of its seemingly adult subject material, should really hold up well for children, although they may need a bit of a history lesson.

Amazon lists a couple of different releases for Bugsy Malone, but it looks as though all of them are out of print.

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