Baby Driver

(USA 2017)

“You’re either hard as nails or scared as shit. Which is it?”

— Griff

“Streisand, now Queen? The fuck, what y’all gonna do, you gonna belt out show tunes on the way to the job?”

— Bats

“Don’t feed me anymore lines from Monsters Inc. It pisses me off.”

— Doc

A movie that starts with a bank robbery while the driver blares Jon Spencer on his headphones can’t be all that bad. And it’s not. Baby Driver calls to mind films like Bonnie & Clyde, Dog Day Afternoon, and my favorite, True Romance, yet it has enough going for it that it stands apart as a contributor rather than a ripoff.

Ansel Elgort is Baby, a young buck constantly plugged into his iPod. He works as the getaway driver for a rotating crew of bank robbers headed by kingpin Doc (Kevin Spacey). He’s paying off a debt, and he wants out as soon as it’s done — like, in one more job. Baby’s plan is to disappear with cutie waitress Debora (Lily James). Unfortunately for him, other plans get in the way — plans he didn’t make.

Frankly, all the hype over this movie led me to expect more. A lot more. Admittedly, my expectations were high — too high. That said, I liked Baby Driver. It’s a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. I’d be lying if I denied that my mind wandered at points, but seeing a millennial Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is worth its weight in gold, or at least its weight in Bitcoin. If nothing else, all those hours I spent making mix tapes are now validated.

With Hudson Meek, Jamie Foxx, Eiza González, Jon Bernthal, Flea, Lanny Joon, C.J. Jones, Sky Ferreira, Lance Palmer, Big Boi, Paul Williams, Jon Spencer, Micah Howard, Morgan Brown, Sidney Sewell, Thurman Sewell

Production: TriStar Pictures, Media Rights Capital (MRC), Double Negative (Dneg), Big Talk Productions , Working Title Films

Distribution: Sony Pictures Releasing (International), TriStar Pictures (USA), United International Pictures (UIP), Universal Pictures International (UPI) (Netherlands), Big Picture 2 Films (Portugal), Columbia Pictures (Philippines), Feelgood Entertainment (Greece), Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony Pictures Filmverleih, Sony Pictures Releasing

112 minutes
Rated R

(iTunes rental) C+

http://www.babydriver-movie.com/discanddigital/

White Christmas

(USA 1954)

“May your days be merry and bright; and may all your Christmases be white!”

— Cast

I’ve never heard anyone — not even my grandparents — call White Christmas their favorite movie. Nonetheless, as corny holiday adventure romantic comedies go, it’s a holiday treat that can’t be beat. This year, we caught a double feature (White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life) complete with live piano, carols, Yuletide shorts, and Santa!

White Christmas follows Captain Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Private Phil Davis (Danny Kaye), members of the 151st Division of the U.S. Army, from a World War II battlefield where the latter sacrifices his shoulder to save the former, into their successful postwar Broadway partnership likely borne out of a sense of obligation, to a tiny Vermont inn where they both fall in love. Not with each other — though that would be interesting. No, with two nightclub singers they meet in Miami, “Sisters” Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy Haynes (Vera-Ellen, who’s visibly anorexic).

God help these misters! It’s love at first sight for Phil and Judy, but not for Bob and Betty (which amusingly are my parents’ names). The gals have to take off for a Christmas performance they booked in Vermont. Not wanting her to leave, Phil finagles a sneaky way to extend his time with Judy — much to Bob’s dismay. A startlingly sad surprise awaits them in Vermont, exactly where the gals are performing. It seems it will take a Christmas miracle to turn things around, but Bob and Betty and Phil and Judy just might pull it off — with a little help from their friends in the 151st Division.

Directed by Michael Curtiz, White Christmas is standard golden age Hollywood fare: slick sets, catchy songs, peppy dance numbers, and a cute, heartwarming, almost cloying plot that ends on a sunny note. It’s not over the top, like, say, Anchors Aweigh, but it’s totally entertaining and fun. The screenplay by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama, and Melvin Frank is energetic, building its narrative with familar elements: recurring jokes, antagonistic relations, a drag scene, eavesdropping, misunderstandings, feigned circumstances, setting something free, saving the day, blooming love, and of course snow on Christmas.

Irving Berlin’s music is classic: “Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me,” “Gee, I Wish I Was Back in the Army,” “Sisters,” and — duh! — the title track, a huge hit that was already a decade old by the time the movie was made. The single “White Christmas” holds the Guinness World Record as the top selling record of all time (https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/8022047/white-christmas-bing-crosby-number-1-rewinding-charts). Title of this movie explained.

With Dean Jagger, Mary Wickes, Johnny Grant, John Brascia, George Chakiris, Anne Whitfield, Percy Helton, I. Stanford Jolley, Barrie Chase, Sig Ruman, Grady Sutton, Herb Vigran

Production: Paramount Pictures

Distribution: Paramount Pictures

120 minutes
Not rated

(Music Box) B

Swept Away

(UK / Italy 2002)

Guy Ritchie’s remake of Lina Wertmüller’s Swept Away, a film that looks like it would be Blue Lagoon but is far from it, was universally panned when it came out. I never saw it, and probably never would have bothered but for my recent discovery of Wertmüller’s work. A two-hour flight from Chicago to New York City and back seemed like the perfect time to get both of them out of the way.

I planned to watch Wertmüller’s original first because…well, that makes sense. Unfortunately, I didn’t start it early enough — the original is 25 minutes longer, and by the time I pulled out my iPad I didn’t have enough time for it. So, I had to settle for backward and watch Ritchie’s version first.

He sticks pretty close to the storyline of the original. Initially, I found Swept Away kind of boring but not offensively awful. Only after seeing Wertmüller’s version did it become painfully clear how lame this remake is; it’s utterly impotent by comparison.

Ritchie retains the critical plot elements of class tension and anticapitalist sentiment that color much of Wertmüller’s work, but here they don’t read the same way; they’re off. Trite, even. Ritchie injects dribs and drabs of his loutish brand of humor into his version, and I found that to be a plus. However, he turns Swept Away into a flaccid, neutered romantic dramedy that the original is not. His version is kinder, gentler, and softer. It has no edge to it whatsoever, which is unusual for him. Yawn.

Stiff and hollow, Madonna’s acting is par for the course. Her character, Amber, is suited to her image. She could’ve had fun with the role. Too bad she seriously overdoes the rich bitch bit and comes off as nasty, hateful, and angry. Not fun. Adriano Giannini, the son of Giancarlo Giannini who played the same role in the original, is nice to look at. That’s it, though; his character, Giuseppe, or as Amber calls him “Pee Pee,” is a turnoff — what a wimp!

The most interesting thing about Swept Away is that David Thornton, Cyndi Lauper’s husband, has a fairly substantial part. I wonder if that was awkward?

With Bruce Greenwood, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Beattie, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Yorgo Voyagis, Ricardo Perna, George Yiasoumi, Beatrice Luzzi, Lorenzo Ciompi, Patrizio Rispo, Francis Pardeilhan, Rosa Pianeta, Andrea Ragatzu

Production: CODI SpA, Ska Films

Distribution: Screen Gems (USA), Columbia TriStar Films (UK), Medusa Distribuzione (Italy)

89 minutes
Rated R

(iTunes rental) D

http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/sweptaway/

The Immigrant

(USA 1917)

The Immigrant is quintessential Charlie Chaplin: funny, cute, and touching, it entertains while criticizing the social conditions of the day — here, the treatment of immigrants in “the Land of Liberty.” You decide whether all that much has changed in a hundred years.

Written and directed by Chaplin, The Immigrant follows his Tramp character on a boat bound for the States. He meets a fellow passenger, a beautiful young woman (Edna Purviance) traveling with her mother (Kitty Bradbury), and he has the perfect “in” when money is stolen from her purse. Sparks fly, but unfortunately the two potential love birds are separated by U.S. Customs agents as soon as they reach New York Harbor.

Once in the New World, the Immigrant has some trouble making ends meet. He finds a quarter on the ground one dreary afternoon and heads to a restaurant where a hostile head waiter (Eric Campbell) gives him a hard time. By chance, he sees the young woman from the boat and invites her to his table for beans and coffee (yuck!). Soon realizing that the quarter slipped through a hole in his pocket, he tries to impress her while stalling on the check to avoid ejectment.

The Immigrant starts off rocky — literally: the boat rocks back and forth, lending itself to some nice physical comedy with passengers sliding across the floor, juggling moves, and dishes sliding across a table. Thankfully, the rocking stops just before it becomes annoying. The scene in the restaurant is fascinating both for the character development and the physical choreography. This is a sweet story, an early romcom with a happy ending — and it’s downright charming a century later.

In 1998, the United States Library of Congress deemed The Immigrant “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry (https://www.loc.gov/programs/national-film-preservation-board/film-registry/complete-national-film-registry-listing/).

With Albert Austin, Henry Bergman, Loyal Underwood, William Gillespie, James T. Kelly, John Rand, Frank J. Coleman, Tom Harrington, Janet Miller Sully, Tom Wilson, Tiny Sandford

Production: The Lone Star Film Corporation

Distribution: Mutual Film Corporation

24 minutes
Not rated

(YouTube) B+

The Seduction of Mimi [Mimì metallurgico ferito nell’onore]

(Italy 1972)

I never heard of Lina Wertmüller until a retrospective of her work showed at a theater near me. The Seduction of Mimi [Mimì metallurgico ferito nell’onore] is an excellent starting point because it’s a textbook example of her style and the themes that inspire her. Plus, it’s an entertaining movie.

Mimi (Giancarlo Giannini) is a laborer in Sicily. His trouble begins after he votes for the communist candidate in a local election—his employer has been pushing its employees to vote for the mafia candidate. The ballot is supposed to be secret, but Mimi learns that it isn’t when he’s fired. Fearing that things will get complicated, he leaves his wife, Rosalia (Agostina Belli), behind and skips town.

Mimi ends up in Turin, where he finds work on an illegal construction site. He witnesses an on-the-job fatality and proves to be a problem when he learns that the mafia bosses running the job plan to dump the body. To keep him quiet, they place him in a union job at a factory.

It isn’t long before Mimi meets the alluring Fiorella (Mariangela Melato) selling sweaters on the street. He’s hooked on her; in fact, he knocks her up and she gives birth to a son. This is where The Seduction of Mimi gets really fun. Mimi is promoted to a management position back in Sicily. Naturally, he brings Fiorella and the baby with him. He’s protective of his new family and paranoid that Rosalia will find out about it, so he leads a thorny double life that…let’s just say doesn’t end well.

The Seduction of Mimi is rough, moving along like an episode of The Benny Hill Show. It’s compelling nonetheless because it has a certain elegance. Wertmüller is known for mixing sex, class, and politics. It’s a tricky feat, but she manages to pull it off while keeping The Seduction of Mimi totally amusing even by today’s standards. The stuff with the mafia and the gay rumor that gets out because Mimi won’t have sex with Rosalia are both hilarious. The whole revenge subplot that involves getting Amalia (Elena Fiore) pregnant is brilliant on so many levels, and that scene at the end where all of Mimi’s children clamor for him calling him “Papa!” is perfect. Giannini with his bug-eyed Chaplinesque faces looks crazy throughout this film, nicely underscoring the insanity of his situation. I smiled a lot during this film.

With Turi Ferro, Luigi Diberti, Tuccio Musumeci, Ignazio Pappalardo, Gianfranco Barra, Livia Giampalmo

Production: Euro International Film

Distribution: New Line Cinema (USA), Kino Lorber

121 minutes
Rated R

(Gene Siskel Film Center) B

https://www.kinolorber.com/film/theseductionofmimi

Anchors Aweigh

(USA 1945)

“What a time we had tonight, mmm!” In his 1945 New York Times review, Bosley Crowther called Anchors Aweigh a “Gay Musical Film” (http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9F0DE3DC103BEE3BBC4851DFB166838E659EDE). Well, duh!

I doubt Crowther meant “gay” in the current sense of the word, but he certainly wasn’t wrong either way: between all the singing, dancing, handsome sailors in tight pants, and a very young and wide-eyed Frank Sinatra acting out a creepy attachment to Gene Kelly, the only thing that could make Anchors Aweigh any gayer would be an appearance by Judy Garland. Or a raunchy sex scene with all those sailors and the admiral who, in one number (“We Hate to Leave”), said he would beat them with a whip. I half expected and kinda wanted it to happen, but of course it didn’t. Oh well.

As a reward for their bravery, Navy seamen Joe Brady (Kelly) and Clarence Doolittle (Sinatra) are given a four-day leave in Hollywood. Joe plans to hook up with his dame, Lola. After stalking him on the streets of Los Angeles, sweet and naive ex choir boy Clarence asks the apparently more experienced Joe to teach him how to meet girls.

Enter Donald (Dean Stockwell, whom most of us know as a middle-aged man from his many ’80s and ’90s movies), a little tyke who’s running away from home to join the navy. Our boys take him home, where Donald lives with his Aunt Susie (Kathryn Grayson), a nice girl trying to get into the movie industry—if only she could catch a break. Clarence immediately falls head over heels and enlists Joe’s assistance in wooing her, which provides the story here.

Even though (and probably because) the characters, plot, and dialogue are totally corny, Anchors Aweigh is truly a frothy blast—it’s exactly the kind of film that comes to mind when I think of classic Hollywood. A vivacious affair, director George Sidney keeps everything about it big: the sets, the songs, the dance numbers. I was particularly taken by one sequence involving Kelly and various animated figures—it culminates in an awesome song-and-dance with none other than Jerry Mouse of Tom and Jerry cartoons. Flawless!

The whole spectacle is tied up in an amazing Technicolor bow; Charles Boyle and Robert Planck’s color palette is gorgeous, and seeing it on a nitrate print literally left me breathless. From a sensory perspective, Anchors Aweigh was hands down my favorite film at this year’s Nitrate Picture Show.

As a side note, I must confess that one thing threw me for a loop: Kelly and Sinatra (and Grayson, for that matter) are young and beautiful here—not the old timers I’m accustomed to seeing having grown up when I did. They’re actually hot, even by today’s standards. Kelly upstages Sinatra throughout the entire film, which I found bizarre and quite amusing.

With José Iturbi, Pamela Britton, Grady Sutton, Rags Ragland, Billy Gilbert, William Forrest

Production: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Distribution: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

143 minutes
Not rated

(Dryden Theatre) A-

Nitrate Picture Show

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer

(USA 1947)

Richard “Dick” Nugent (Cary Grant) is a dashing, self-absorbed playboy charged with inciting a brawl at a nightclub. A self-employed artist, he shows up late for his hearing before priggish Judge Margaret Turner (Myrna Loy), who’s put off by his casual indifference. Nevertheless, she dismisses the case when she sees that the whole thing started with two floozies (Veda Ann Borg and Carol Hughes) fighting over him. With a slam of her gavel and an eyeroll, she sends Dick on his way, warning him to watch himself.

A free man, Dick heads straight to his next appointment: he’s the guest lecturn at a high school where Margaret’s dramatic 17-year-old sister, Susan (Shirley Temple), is a student. She attends the lecture, and is immediately smitten. Susan approaches Dick afterward and offers to, err, model for him. He’s noncommittal, clearly unaware that he’s dealing with a determined gal.

That evening, Susan gets all dolled up and sneaks out to Dick’s apartment, a spacious two-story downtown suite I’d kill to have. He’s not home, but she persuades the young doorman (Ian Bernard?) to let her up so she can wait for him. Naturally, she falls asleep on the davenport.

A big misunderstanding leads to Dick punching Margaret’s date, district attorney Tommy Chamberlain (Rudy Vallee), when they show up at his apartment to rescue Susan soon after he gets home and discovers her there. Dick is sent to the slammer, where court psychiatrist Dr. Matt Beemish (Ray Collins)—Margaret and Susan’s uncle—figures out what’s up. The good doctor proposes a “simple” solution: Dick agrees to date Susan, Margaret agrees to allow Susan to date Dick until her infatuation runs its course, and Tommy agrees to drop the assault charge. All three grudgingly agree to the plan. Hilarity ensues, especially as Dick and Margaret start digging each other—and Susan proves to be a real pain in the ass.

Penned by future TV creator/writer Sidney Sheldon (The Patty Duke Show, I Dream of Jeannie, and Hart to Hart), The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer is a solid textbook screwball comedy. It actually feels like a sitcom. Sheldon won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for this (https://www.oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/1948), and I can see why: his script is light and fun, capitalizing on the generation gap between youth culture and, I guess, middle age. I doubt the story would fly today; the whole premise reads as creepy by 21st Century standards. For a more innocent time, though, it totally works. And it’s amusing.

Director Irving Reis straddles the line between silly and ridiculous without going overboard. Grant, Loy, and Temple all have better work under their belt, but each still gives a memorable performance here even if their characters and this fluffy film are forgettable. I heard some grumbling from others in the audience, but I enjoyed this for what it is—and it ain’t Citizen Kane.

One final word about the nitrate print I saw: it was stunning, exceeding my expectations. I had my doubts that black and white film would make me sing the praises of nitrate, but The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer made me a believer; the whites were luminescent and the blacks and greys were deep and complex. Lovely!

With Lillian Randolph, Harry Davenport, Johnny Sands, Don Beddoe, Dan Tobin, Ransom Sherman, William Bakewell, Irving Bacon, Dore Schary

Production: RKO Radio Pictures, Vanguard Films

Distribution: RKO Radio Pictures

95 minutes
Not rated

(Dryden Theatre) C+

Nitrate Picture Show

Some Freaks

(USA 2016)

A line from an old Billy Idol song (“Hole in the Wall”) appropriately sums up the plot of playwright Ian MacAllister-McDonald’s charming and touching debut feature film Some Freaks:

“We were such an ugly pair,
The chameleon twins they’d stop and stare.
Lovers know when love has gone.
A black hole there where love was once the end.”

Rhode Island high school senior Matt Ledbetter (Thomas Mann), who has the unflattering nickname “Cyclops” because of the patch he wears over his fucked up eye, doesn’t fit in with his classmates. Awkward and unpopular and literally a freak, his only friend is schlubby neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie gay motormouth Elmo (Ely Henry), who seems eager to blow just about any guy—not that any guy is ever going to let him. Lucky Matt gets to hear all of Elmo’s fantasies in graphic detail as they play video games. Yipee.

A chubby new girl (Lily Mae Harrington) in thrift store clothes and green-streaked hair flirts with Matt in biology class. Matt doesn’t know what to make of her, but he’s obviously intrigued even though he’s all shy about it. She turns out to be Elmo’s cousin Jill, who’s staying with his family for the school year after some trouble at home in Oregon.

Jill and Matt get off to a rocky start when she overhears him crack a fat joke about her to Elmo. Despite her tough facade, cynical and insecure Jill is forgiving—she has no choice because she has a thing for Matt. The three of them start hanging out. To Elmo’s dismay, Matt and Jill fall for each other and start dating.

WARNING: Potential spoilers ahead!

The end of high school brings about a quandary neither starcrossed lover anticipated. Jill gets into college out West, leaving Matt behind on the East Coast. Thus begins their long distance relationship. They lead separate lives and make similar changes without telling each other: Matt gets a glass eye and starts working out while Jill gets a new wardrobe and goes on a diet. Suddenly normalized, Matt goes to a party and hits on chicks while Jill attracts the attention of frat boy hottie Patrick (Lachlan Buchanan), who went to high school with her. His mean girl pals were not very nice.

Matt and Jill’s metamorphoses clash when he visits her six months later and they discover that their natural connection is now strained and forced. What’s worse, they bring out something ugly in each other. Is this the death knell for their relationship?

Written and directed by MacAllister-McDonald, Some Freaks is impressive even with its flaws, especially for a first time full length feature. The story and the characters recall John Hughes and Todd Solondz, but this is by no means mere imitation or an update of either. I like MacAllister-McDonald’s straightforward and unsentimental view. Yes, much of what happens here is predictable; however, there are enough twists that I didn’t see coming to keep it interesting if not fresh. The actors put a lot of heart into their characters, and it shows—even Buchanan, whose Patrick is underdeveloped and not entirely believable.

I happened to see Some Freaks on April Fool’s Day with my teenage nephew. All things considered, I couldn’t have planned it better.

With Marin Ireland, John Thorsen, Sylvia Kates, Devon Caraway, Brian Semel, Nikki Massoud, Stephen Thorne, Shannon Hartman

Production: Half Jack Productions, Mountview Creative

Distribution: Good Deed Entertainment

Screening followed by a live Q and A with Ian MacAllister-McDonald, Lily Mae Harrington, and Ely Henry

97 minutes
Not rated

(Tower City Cinemas) B

Cleveland International Film Festival

http://www.somefreaksthemovie.com

Lonesome [Solitude]

(USA 1928)

The promotional poster touts something “New! Different! Refreshing!” It sounds like soda, but it’s not: it’s Lonesome, a real charmer that still works as it nears its centennial.

Music Box Theatre screened a crisp restored 35mm print of Paul Fejos’s Lonesome for Reel Film Day, a countrywide event honoring films of the almost abandoned format (https://drafthouse.com/event/reel-film-day). The program was a double feature that included the Adam Sandler vehicle Punch Drunk. I didn’t stick around so I can’t comment on Punch Drunk, but Lonesome was an excellent choice.

Mary (Barbara Kent), a telephone operator for Ma Bell, and Jim (Glenn Tyron), a punch press operator in a factory, are two young working stiffs in the Big Apple. Both live alone in small rented room (not together—there’d be no movie then), and participate in an urban rat race that actually looks busier and grungier than what we have today.

Clearly, the film predates the standard five-day work week: the calendar in Mary’s room indicates that the day is Saturday, July 3. As Mary and Jim finish their respective jobs, which Fejos shows in a narrative that goes back and forth between the two, their work friends invite them to join in their weekend plans. Mary and Jim both see immediately that they’ll be the odd one out, as all of their friends are paired up. Both politely decline, going home dejectedly without any plans.

After they each see the same marching band advertising a cheap carriage ride to Coney Island, Mary and Jim end up going there solo on the same trip. They meet at the beach, and a modest flitration ensues. He tells her he’s a millionaire, and she tells him she’s a princess. They get along well, and commence an impromptu date, walking around, playing carnival games, and dancing. A fortune teller (Fred Esmelton) reveals that Mary has already met the man who will become her husband.

Mary and Jim get separated after a mishap on a rollercoaster. The problem is, they each have a tiny picture of the other from a photo booth and they only know each other’s first name. Finding each other in the throngs of people at the park that evening is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Have they lost each other before they even had a chance?

Edward T. Lowe, Jr. and Tom Reed adapt a cute story by Mann Page; it’s a simple yet clever plot. Despite its age, one point in Lonesome still rings loud and clear and true: connecting in the big city is harder than it looks. We all get wrapped up in the daily stuff of our lives, and we tend to overlook what’s right in front of us. Kent and Tyron are both adorable. Gilbert Warrenton’s kinetic camerawork captures a lot in the background, and it makes the shots at Coney Island especially fun to watch.

Lonesome features two or three abruptly placed “talking” scenes—the film was made when sound was a new thing—and the dialogue is laughably awful. There are also a few color tinted night shots: marquee lights, fireworks, stars. It’s really cheesy. That said, these are short, minor disruptions that don’t detract from enjoying this film for all its silent era charisma.

In 2010, the United States Library of Congress deemed Lonesome “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry (https://www.loc.gov/programs/national-film-preservation-board/film-registry/complete-national-film-registry-listing/).

With Fay Holderness, Gusztáv Pártos, Eddie Phillips, Andy Devine, Edgar Dearing

Production: Universal Pictures Corporation/Universal Pictures (USA)

Distribution: Universal Pictures Corporation/Universal Pictures (USA), European Motion Picture Company (UK), The Criterion Collection (DVD)

75 minutes
Not rated

(Music Box) A

Reel Film Day: A Celebration of 35mm Cinema

https://www.criterion.com/films/28212-lonesome

http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi389587993/

Who’s That Girl

(USA 1987)

“You gotta see me spend money to really appreciate me.”

—Nikki Finn

“¿Quién es esa niña?” asks the buoyant but trite title song, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts for a week during the summer of 1987. We all know the answer: it’s Madonna, of course. Perhaps a better question is, what happened with this movie?

Madonna is Nikki Finn, a playful gumcracking ex-con who just got out of jail serving time for a crime she didn’t commit. She’s rough around the edges but dead serious about her mission: she’s determined to find out who framed her for the murder of her boyfriend, Johnny.

Enter uptight humorless yuppie tax attorney Loudon Trott (Griffin Dunne), who works for Manhattan mogul Simon Worthington (John McMartin) and is about to marry his daughter, Wendy (Haviland Morris). Louden is charged with the task of picking up Nikki from the pen and making sure she gets on a bus to Philadelphia. Surprise: it’s not that easy with someone like darling Nikki, which becomes abundantly clear to Louden over the next 24 hours. Talk about causing a commotion.

Originally titled Slammer, Who’s That Girl is an homage of sorts to the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s. It’s a total “summer movie.” Written by Andrew Smith and Ken Finkleman, and directed by James Foley, it shows glimpses of some okay ideas. It’s supposed to be fun, and to a degree it is. Madonna and Dunne concoct a believable chemistry, I’ll give them that. Dunne is a great straight guy, on par with his performance in After Hours. The problem is, Who’s That Girl just isn’t very funny. The jokes are lame, the laughs are far and few between, and the plot is predictable. The whole thing loses steam about halfway through. Murray the cougar (Murray) is a pointless gimmick that, sadly, doesn’t add anything.

The animated opening sequence is cool (and parts of it ended up in the music video for “Who’s That Girl”). The soundtrack is better than the film. Overall, though, Who’s That Girl is a pretty uninspired work. I love Madonna and I ran to the theater when this came out. I was underwhelmed then; after waiting almost 30 years to see it again, I’m underwhelmed now. Fun fact, though: Stanley Tucci and Mike Starr both have minor roles as dockworkers.

With Coati Mundi, Dennis Burkley, James Dietz, Bibi Besch, John Mills, Robert Swan, Drew Pillsbury, Liz Sheridan

Production: Guber-Peters Company

Distribution: Warner Brothers

92 minutes
Rated PG

(iTunes purchase) D+