Starring: Scott Baio, Jodie Foster, a bunch of kids who never did anything else
Directed by Alan Parker
Two years before helming the Turkish prison drama Midnight Express, Alan Parker turned in this wacky all-kid salute to the gangster flicks of yesteryear. There’s singing! There’s dancing! There’s no one over the age of sixteen! There’s ample amounts of Scott Baio, too, whose turn as the title character is just as average as anything he ever did on “Happy Days.” Luckily, every other kid in Bugsy Malone sucks so bad they make Baio look like Brando – every one, that is, except Jodie Foster, who steamrolls Scott as sarcastic showgirl Tallulah. They really should have called this picture Watch Jodie Foster Blow Chachi And All His Stupid Friends Off Screen Because She’s Been Acting Since She Came Out Of The Womb And She’s AWESOME At It.
The plot of Bugsy Malone (which, despite the photo above, is in color) revolves around two rival gangs fighting over control of a new weapon – the “Splurge” gun, a confectionery-based weapon that fires heavy doses of whip cream right into its victim’s faces. It’s like some kind of shit the Joker might have used on the old “Batman” TV series. Nothing in this movie is funnier than watching so many unassuming tots get nailed in the face with Splurge guns; to signify these poor kids have “died,” the camera will suddenly freeze for a moment on their startled, cream-encrusted faces before quickly cutting to the next shot. It’s pretty jarring and goofy at first, but you get used to it. This is, after all, a movie about gangsters in which none of the cast members have pubic hair.
Caught somewhere in the middle of this prepubescent gangland war is Scott Baio, who spends most of Bugsy Malone desperately trying to romance a timid young singer named Blousey Brown. He starts by taking her out for a large meal at a diner. When the check comes, Scotty locks the only waitress on duty in a nearby phone booth to avoid paying the bill. Okay, now say it with me: twenty years later, Baio would pull the same exact stunt in real life at a San Diego Denny’s. He didn’t know the Grand Slam Breakfast was so expensive! But I kid the washed-up star of Zapped! and Zapped Again! I’m sure he’s paid for every meal he’s ever eaten at Denny’s in his entire life.
Bugsy Malone‘s Oscar-nominated score(!), composed by 1970s superstar / Dr. Zaius lookalike Paul Williams, holds together the parts of this movie where cutesy kiddie charm just isn’t adhesive enough. The only weird part is all the songs in the film are sung by adults, and watching these little ruffians lip-synch isn’t convincing in the least. A few of the tykes are clearly aware of this and don’t even try to match their grown-up counterparts (Foster in particular). Still, the tunes are good, almost good enough to make me consider hunting down the 1996 UK CD release of the soundtrack. The cover art is pretty hot, too.
Bugsy Malone has yet to be released on DVD in the U.S.—the copy I Netflixed was an Asian import with surprisingly good subtitles. If you have a Blu-Ray, though, you’re in luck—a “region free” version was recently released on that format in the U.K., complete with director’s commentary and special features. So go hit up some Brit website if you have a burning desire to own the greatest mobster musical starring “Charles in Charge” and a child named Michael Jackson who is most certainly NOT the famous Michael Jackson (nor is he the Michael Jackson I went to middle school with).
Final Score: Two and a half Splurge guns out of four.