Bugsy Malone (1976)
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This is a cute little movie [for a Sunday afternoon].
Bugsy Malone is like a home video recording of a grade school play. You have the hams; the teenagers who seem like they're half loving their moment in the spotlight and half terrified; the couple of kids who might have legitimate careers in the biz; and the many kids who definitely don't; the toned-down violence (bullets here are replaced by some mushy substance. Mashed potatoes, maybe?); the numerous bit parts for the kids with the pushiest parents. Only this grade school play is photographed beautifully by two accomplished cinematographers, has professional-grade prohibition-era costuming and a soundtrack written by the great Paul Williams. Bugsy Malone does not work in many ways, but the quirky spoof is elevated immensely by its production values. The mood of a '30s gangster flick is set so well that it makes the one big joke work... at least, for a while.
The film stars a young Scott Baio in the titular lead role, as well as an already-famous Jodie Foster as his one-time lover. The story is compartmentalized, but the main threads are Bugsy's torrid relationship with the Hollywood-bound Blousey Brown and Bugsy's old acquaintance Fat Sam's gang war with rival mobster Dandy Dan. The latter story plays out much more successfully, thanks in particular to the young'uns in the two big roles. John Cassisi is an appropriately over-the-top, boisterous type. The sort you might've seen James Cagney play, but more so in his later film-noir roles than his earlier gangster work (White Heat, say). Martin Lev can't quite get the New York accent right, but he puts his all into the role and creates an honestly intimidating presence -- at least, for a kid. He's that one kid who took make believe too seriously. The romance plot is less compelling.
This brings me to the part where I talk about the stuff the movie does wrong. There are many little things you can pick at: the pointless musical numbers; the endless subplots; the directionless story; the flat, out-of-nowhere ending; but all of those problems are symptoms of this film's tragic case of aimlessness. What was Bugsy Malone trying to be? It's a spoof without jokes. It's on the same track as Dr. Strangelove or Airplane!, but it doesn't have any material behind it. I think that's what makes it seem slow. It's cute and there are many elements to admire but they're all in service of about as much as a school play, which already have a reputation for dullness. The only perceivable goal is to parade kids around for the the sake of the act, itself, but a bunch of kids doing voices isn't funny beyond a few minutes. Either play it straight and tell a strong story that transcends the kid angle, or play up the angle and poke fun at the gangster movie.
I'm not in any position to recommend movies to strangers on the internet I don't know, but maybe this will give you a decent idea of whether you want to watch this movie. The songs are good and it looks pretty, but it's just a glossy shell with nothing inside.
My #1 favorite. I must have seen this upwards of 100 times by this point.
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In 3 official lists
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This movie ranks #63 in 101 Gangster Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #145 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die
This movie ranks #353 in Empire 500