Bang Bang Baby has little feel for the genre it's spoofing

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      Starring Jane Levy and Peter Stormare. Rated PG. 

      So many things can go wrong when mounting a musical, it’s amazing when anything goes right.

      First off, there’s the music, preferably starting with songs by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, and/or Prince. (Hey, Moulin Rouge got away with it.) Next, there’s star power, followed by production values and then by theatrical track record. Was the cast led by Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra as good as the one (words and music by Frank Loesser, based on Damon Runyon stories) that played on Broadway? No. Was the movie an instant classic? Hell, yes!

      So the makers of Bang Bang Baby faced an uphill battle and don’t get very far up the mountain. After several stylistically experimental shorts, writer-director Jeffrey St. Jules brings us this tale of redheaded ambition in a small Canadian town, allegedly circa 1964.

      Things centre on Stepphy, a perky high-schooler played by Jane Levy, 26-year-old veteran of TV shows like Suburgatory and the recent Evil Dead remake. She dreams of moving to the States for her singing career, but is held back by her alcoholic father (Peter Stormare, who looks lost but gets a decent cowboy song).

      There’s also some environmental trouble brewing at the local Purple Mist factory. And what’s a few mutations between friends?

      Everything changes when Stepphy’s teen idol shows up randomly at her podunk abode. Played by 32-year-old Justin Chatwin (who shared the Shameless series with Levy), this crooner with a skunk-striped quiff is called Bobby Shore. Oddly enough, that’s also the name of this film’s cinematographer (who’s worked on Goon and many other Canadian productions). The Bobby Shore behind the camera does a lot with a little, as the movie’s cheap-looking sets depend on colourful lighting to make moods work.

      Unfortunately, the filmmakers have little feel for the period or the genres they’re spoofing, and the songs are mostly pretty bad anyway. Rural Canada and musicals themselves certainly lagged behind popular culture. But the beatnik tiki bars, surf guitars, doo-wop sing-alongs, and terrible lip-synching feel a lot more ’50s than anything from the time of the Beatles. So does the message about motherhood making everything okay.

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