Bugsy [1991]

Director: Barry Levinson
Stars: Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Harvey Keitel, Ben Kingsley, Elliott Gould
Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 136 minutes

Writer-director Alan Parker's feature debut Bugsy Malone is a pastiche of American movies, a musical gangster comedy set in 1929, featuring prohibition, showgirls, and gang warfare, with references to everything from Some Like It Hot to The Godfather. Uniquely, though, all the parts are played by children, including an excellent if underused Jodie Foster as platinum-blonde singer Tallulah, Scott Baio in the title role and a nine-year-old Dexter Fletcher wielding a baseball bat. Cream-firing "spluge guns" sidestep any real violence and the movie climaxes cheerfully with the biggest custard pie fight this side of Casino Royale (1967). Unfortunately for a musical, Paul Williams's score--part honky-tonk jazz homage, part 1970s Elton John-style pop--lets the side down with a lack of memorable tunes. Nevertheless, Parker's direction is spot on and the look of the film is superb, a fantasy movie-movie existing in the same parallel reality as The Cotton Club and Chicago. A rare British love letter to classic American cinema, Bugsy Malone remains a true original; in Parker's words "the work of a madman" and one of the strangest yet most stylish children's films ever made. --Gary S. Dalkin

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