I remember this being huge and then pretty much disappearing. I was actually a little confused for a while about whether this and Moulin Rouge were the same movie, because that is how little I knew about the story, and I know not much more now. I think I’ve seen one clip that has the romantic leads singing in a trippy cosmic setting that’s probably not diegetic, so I can rule out a space movie and probably a fantastical movie.
Essentially, all anyone will say about it is that it’s the musical that’s all Beatles music (though it seems it actually also includes Beatles-adjacent music, but I always thought Wings sounded like The Beatles anyway). Nobody really said much about what Mamma Mia was about either, and it’s not like the familiar music being the draw left it a disappointment, but this movie hasn’t had the impact that Mamma Mia did, so I’m not sure what I’m going to get, but it will probably look pretty and sound familiar.
When I decided to cover jukebox musicals, I did some research to try to get some more variety. I found that Wikipedia is a bit lax with their definition of a jukebox musical. My impression is that they count any musical that has at least one preexisting song in it. However, a significant percentage of the songs in this show seem to be songs that were not originated for the production, and among those, many seem to be from the time the story is set in, if not already associated with the 1904 World’s Fair. It is at least close enough that I’ll take it.
That said, a lot of musicals from the golden age of Hollywood musicals have songs that originated with them but have become completely divorced from them and become standards. I’ve been taken by surprise by some other musicals, but in studying the musical credits I see that “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” both appear to have basically originated with this movie, but have long since come to stand on their own.
Unsurprisingly, I have very little knowledge of this movie from the outside. Maybe I should try to find more movies people have completely given away so I have more to talk about. I did manage to get that it had something to do with a cabaret in historic Paris, and after a long time being confused about the provenance of songs like “Lady Marmalade”, I came to learn it was a jukebox musical. This was probably the first jukebox musical I became aware of that wasn’t entirely from the catalog of a single act, and I was a bit surprised that could be done, since the most notable jukebox musicals I know of are Mamma Mia! (ABBA), Across the Universe (Beatles), and Movin’ Out (Billy Joel, not a movie yet as far as I know, also until just now I thought the show was bafflingly titled after “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”). Stepping back I think what happened was it became a bit of a trend for long-running musicians to license out their collected works to Broadway, which is certainly a lot easier to build a show around than trying to license the works that make sense to use in the story you planned to tell.
Anyway, the briefest of looks over what this movie is about informs me that it is not directly related to the previous movies named for the Moulin Rouge venue, and that Henri Toulouse-Latrec is a character here, which kind of makes sense since I know he painted for the Parisian cabarets and I dimly recall one for the Moulin Rouge. He’s not the lead, but does look a bit important, so I don’t know how that’s going to go.
This month I will be focusing on jukebox musicals, and for me in my experience, there’s no more obvious jukebox musical film than Mamma Mia!, having spent 20 years of my life being very aware of the music of ABBA being in the world.
I think the plot they’ve woven around these songs has to do with a woman about to get married and wanting to include the father she’s never met, only to find out her mother isn’t sure who that is because she was seeing three men at the same time. There are some details I’m more certain of than others, but finding fathers is definitely involved. I think the “sequel” is a flashback to that time frame entirely.
The music has already stood the test of time, but the story has to live up to one episode of Community that spent all its budget on the gag that the Halloween party playlist was just ABBA’s entire catalog.
This movie has always existed. Or at least, it’s always existed in my world. As my ability to remember the past coalesced, this title was among the ones that was already in our collection, which I was watching regularly. Maybe not as regularly as others, but I can’t clearly remember how much I watched one or the other. Anyway, I wasn’t allowed to watch anything more than once in a day, which I came to realize later in life was probably mostly for the preservation of my parents’ sanity, and in a distant second, the cassette tapes my brother and I were wearing out.
I’m not sure if I have actually watched An American Tail since we gave up on our Betamax player long, long after that format war had been lost. Maybe I felt I’d rewatched it so many times I didn’t need to see it anymore. It didn’t hold all that much special significance for me to seek it out. Don Bluth movies are a little weird anyway, and of those that I was regularly exposed to in my youth, this doesn’t have the “wait, I don’t think I got the complexities of the plot” that The Secret of NIMH had, the polished, hit-me-in-just-the-right-moment chemistry of Anastasia, or the dinosaurs of The Land Before Time. And so I come back to it only now in a spirit of “wait, I don’t think I grasped the complexities of the emotions and satire”. By the time I really comprehended that it was about the immigration experience, I was too busy for it.
In Russia in the late 1800s, the Mousekewitz family lives in fear of cats, but otherwise content, though Papa will tell anyone who will or won’t listen of a land called America where there are no cats, a place of such abundance the streets are paved with cheese and a mouse can live at peace. When the human village their mousehole is in is burned in a pogrom and Cossack cats terrorize the fleeing mice, the Mousekewitz family boards a boat to New York. Shortly before arrival, the middle child Fievel is swept out to sea in a storm and given up for lost by his family. Luckily, Fievel ends up in a bottle and floats to shore on his own, where he is found by a French pigeon who assures him it’s possible to find his family and directs him to the harbor they would have come in through. However, before he can reach the immigration office, he is instead found by Warren T. Rat, who promises to take Fievel to his family but instead sells him to a sweatshop. With the help of an Italian teen named Tony, Fievel escapes the sweatshop and sets off looking for his family in a city that is not as free of cats as the tales they old in the Old Country.
Dom DeLouise’s friendly cat character is a much smaller part than I remembered, which is honestly just as well, though I think they corrected the oversight of having their biggest star in such a small role for the sequel. Christopher Plummer was completely unrecognizable with a French accent. I’m sorry to say that when I try to decide how I feel about Fievel’s performance, what mainly comes to mind is Caillou, the public television bane of parents everywhere. What is absolutely perfect, however, is Papa Mousekewitz, who sounds exactly like a beloved Jewish Russian father should (though that’s probably partly from stereotypes). There’s so much warmth there.
When I was very young, I didn’t really understand accents. That is, in the sense that I didn’t understand that they connoted something about the person speaking. This meant I lost a lot of information as a kid watching this movie, especially the other people telling their cat attack stories on the boat, who were not Italian and Irish stereotypes to me, just cartoon people with silly cartoon voices. So I guess I never picked up how just about every person Fievel interacts with in America is an immigrant, including Honest John the politician and Gussie Mausheimer the wealthiest mouse in town. The people helping Fievel, from the bottom to the top, are from elsewhere, even the ones who have cemented their place in American society. And by the end, so has Fievel.
I came into it this time expecting a relatable story of immigration, but I kind of feel like while Fievel’s circumstances get him into a variety of places that allow us to see a spectrum of life in a city full of immigrants, his own story is so out of the ordinary that I didn’t get that sense. Also, the story was a hundred years in the past when the movie came out, so culture has significantly changed. I guess the point of the story is that anything can happen in America, and when I think about why that’s more likely than in Europe, I have to come to the conclusion that social hierarchies were in flux because it was still a new society. That’s less true now than a hundred years ago. What hasn’t changed is the stark contrast between the reputation and reality of the New World, and the harsh conditions desperate people brave for their fresh start.
I always had the impression this was a story about mafiosos and their molls, but the closest I ever came to any glimpse of the actual contents of the musical was… highly adulterated, and I’m pretty sure bears no relationship to the actual musical.
The summaries I’m seeing now seem to revolve around illegal gambling, which probably means organized crime, but it doesn’t really seem to be the focus. Obviously the real focus is probably “That Frank Sinatra is having a swell time singing”, more than likely with a dash of “and that nun is going to break her vows for him.”
This looked like a bland musical in a setting I wasn’t very interested in until I recently heard it discussed as a unionization success story, which is pretty topical. I also have more understanding of the newspaper landscape of the late 1800s and the media dueling media empires of the day.
It also still looks like a kind of bland musical, but I haven’t looked too closely.
While the first description I saw for this movie was just about a journalistic rivalry, the second source I saw had the more interesting information that the socialite one journalist invented to meet deadlines appears in real life impersonated by the other one. So this is much less of a His Girl Friday relative than I thought, and sounds about as wide open in terms of production as it can get.
How did I never know, or at least never have it sink in, that Jeff Goldblum is in this? Jim Carrey playing a weird alien, okay. Jeff Goldblum playing a weird alien, the potential to really let him run wild with it has massively piqued my interest.
I stayed away from this movie for a long time because I was expecting a raunchy comedy that hasn’t aged well. But now I find that it was inspired by a song by and co-written by Julie Brown, of songs like “Cause I’m A Blonde” and “The Homecoming Queen’s Got A Gun”, so it has the potential to at least not be tasteless in the way I was expecting. It’s still over 30 years old.
I never heard of this movie before I found I had it available to me, but I like movies that satirize the movie business, and there are some big names I recognize here, so I decided to go ahead with it.
The summary I saw described it as specifically poking fun at the movies of the 30s, carrying the same ensemble through multiple genres, so it’s probably somewhat but not very much like the Hollywood Director improv game where one player keeps changing the genre on the other players while they improvise a scene.