Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

Bye Bye Birdie

★ ★ out of 5

Directed by George Sidney

Starring Dick van Dyke as Albert Peterson

Janet Leigh as Rosie

Ann-Margret as Kim MacAfee

Imdb Link

After their top client, Conrad Birdie, is drafted into the army. Musical talent agents Albert and Rosie devise a plan to get one last publicity bump off of it, by getting Conrad onto the Ed Sullivan show to give a fan one last kiss before he leaves.

I’m definitely a big fan of the musical Bye Bye Birdie, I was in it when I was twelve, my younger brother is in it now. It’s a really fun musical. Now why didn’t I like the movie? This can be summed up by Richard LaGravenese (the director of The Last Five Years)’s words. “Musical theater fans are like comic book geeks, if you mess with their source material, they will hate you for it.” (I’m paraphrasing) This quote sums up why I didn’t like Bye Bye Birdie, it took perfectly good source material, and then took a butcher’s knife to it and cut out half the songs and the entire second act. I’m not someone who really gets pissed when things get changed from source material to screen, in fact, I’m usually the one who defends novel adaptations from my friends who hate the films because “they’re not the same”. I’m fine with Bye Bye Birdie not being exactly the same, but I’m not fine with them cutting out half the songs in the show. One side is making adaptations to  make for a decent film, the other is just a middle finger to fans of the show. We didn’t come for chemistry and Ed Sullivan, we came for the songs. As well, the film just wasn’t very well made. It looked ridiculous, most of the dance scenes felt like sequences from Austin Powers, except completely serious. Then of course there’s the insanely cheesy moments, like Ann Margret singing and walking on a treadmill on a blue screen. Or the crudely drawn happy faces in “Put on a Happy Face”. Also, most of the cast can’t sing. A lot of the songs are completely flat in these singer’s voices. I do love Bye Bye Birdie, just clearly not in it’s film form. So much wasted potential.


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