Sunday, November 11, 2012

Overrated/Underrated Movie Musicals

The Most Overrated Movie Musical- Grease (1978)
Grease is enjoyable.  It has some fun, catchy songs and the fifties settings is a lot of fun.  But it is definitely a movie that only needs to be seen once or twice.  The characters are stereotypical, there's not much to the story, it enforcers some uncomfortable gender roles.  Again I enjoy Grease, or at least I did when I first saw it.  Watch Lady and the Tramp instead, same story that is done way better.
The Most Underrated Movie Musical- Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (1997)
Several ways I could go with underrated.  I love Mary Martin's Peter Pan and Hunchback of Notre Dame, despite its flaws as a Disney animated feature is a great movie musical.  But this version of Cinderella doesn't get enough credit.  It was the first in a long line of musicals on The Wonderful World of Disney and I think it is the best.  It is a well staged and costumed production which adds some new songs and arrangements to the musical.  This is definitely the most progressive version of Cinderella, with main actors of various races.  And race is never acknowledged, they are all just inhabiting a fairy tale setting together.  Brandi, Whitney Houston, Bernadette Peters and the rest clearly had a lot of fun in this and I always enjoy it.
The Most Disappointing Movie Musical- Rock of Ages (2012)
A very well cut, energetic trailer but the movie unfortunately left little impact.  I think that part of the problem is that it uses popular songs that people know, but they don't tell a story.  The only positive is Tom Cruise's rock star which is a performance more in line with Frank TJ Mackie in Magnolia than a movie star.
The Most Surprising Movie Musical- Pitch Perfect (2012)
One of the most surprising delights of the year.  The a cappella covers are infectious and very well done.  Anna Kendrick brings a lot of likability and maturity to a fairly standard college girl role.  And Rebel Wilson absolutely steals the show.  One of the better coming of age movies I've seen in a while and it features some of the best references to The Breakfast Club that I've seen.
My Guilty Pleasure Movie Musical- Annie (1982)
I know I'm not the only one who loves this movie, it does have a following.  But it was nominated for a Razzie and can be the subject of some jokes.  But I always enjoy it, musicals can light fair like this.  It also has a great cast with Albert Finney, Tim Curry, Bernadette Peters and of course Carol Burnett.  Including the racial stereotypes from the comic strip that were absent in the stage musical was ill-advised however.

My Favorite Movie Musical- The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Maybe this deserves the status of the best, I don't know it definitely deserves to be mentioned somewhere.  Movies just don't get better or more iconic than this.  Great musical, great fantasy, great all-time family movie.
The Worst Movie Musical- High School Musical (2006)
I was in junior high and heavily involved in theatre and choir when this came out and everyone bought into it.  The phenomenon certainly seems to have died down, but Disney certainly got as much mileage as they could out of this poorly written musical.  The jokes are standards, songs are dull and characters even duller.  I do like that it got people interested in musicals again, probably introduced a generation of children to musicals.  But those children deserved a much better introduction.
The Best Movie Musical- Beauty and the Beast (1991)
This is the best original musical to ever come out of Hollywood.  The songs all benefit the stories and characters.  It is one of the most accessible movies ever.  Kids respond to it, adults respond it, the critics and Oscar voters even took it seriously.  You love the songs, it is emotional, funny, this is truly one of the greatest movies of all time.


  1. Shirley Maclaines breathtaking performance in Sweet Charity was predominantly overlooked and under praised at the time. She was named as Actress of the year by the terrific film magazine Films & Filming. But th film was not a success, and I should have been, compared to the Much lauded performances of Barbra Streisand & Julie Andrews in the Overrated Funny Girl and Sound of Music, Shirley sings , dances and acts he competitors clean off the screen. This was Bob fosse's first directed movie musical, he followed I not to much late with the lauded Cabaret, but the mystery of how come Shirley, and Charity have been overlooked remains a mystery.

  2. While I agree that MacLaine is wonderful, the movie is a mess. But I still like it. It was a big mistake to take out or change songs. I don't like how they changed the end of the play either. Good Morning! Good Morning! Nonsense! In this case I prefer the alternate happy ending. This is a great movie in pieces. The restaurant scene is perfect. Hey Big Spender is perfect. The Something Better than This scene is perfect. Most of the songs actually make perfect scenes, but the scenes around them fall flat. All the freeze frames are very irritating. The scene where Charity is trying to find another job is almost unbearable. I have a bootleg of the Christina Applegate Broadway performance and I would rather watch that shaky version than the movie. But I still like the movie.