Bad Movies Done Right — Bugsy Malone

Every day Robert Saucedo shines a spotlight on a movie either so bad it’s good or just downright terrible. Today: When kids ruled the world.

I’ve taken a lot of flack in the past for my love of musicals.

While I’ll admit that I was self-conscious at first from the constant ribbing I would get from friends who discovered I dug on movies that featured song-and-dance, I’m proud to say I’m finally comfortable with who I am: a straight man who loves him some showtunes.

No longer prone to retagging musical soundtracks on my iPod and disguising them as tunes from Megadeth or AC/DC, I proudly blare songs from musicals such as Avenue Q, Reefer Madness or Little Shop of Horrors from my car speakers as I navigate the streets of Houston.

For the last few days, though, one soundtrack has dominated my iPod’s playlist — living in a state of perpetual repeat. Since watching Bugsy Malone for the first time last week, I must have listened to the 1976 British film’s soundtrack over a hundred times.

Bugsy Malone is, without question, a strange movie. Written and directed by Alan Parker, the film is an homage to the gangster film genre — with a cast consisting solely of pre-pubescent kids.

Perhaps because the movie takes place on a world that is an extreme version of Logan’s Run,  a child actor plays every single character — from nightclub dancers to mustache-twirling bad guys.

Scott Baio (pre-Happy Days) stars as Bugsy Malone, a smooth talking con-artist who finds himself tangled up in a mob war between two warring fractions of the cutest little hoodlums this side of those Homies and Los Mijos toys that cholos love so much.

Fat Sam (John Cassisi) and Dandy Dan (Martin Lev) are two leaders of rival gangs that each seek to wipe the other out. Being a kids’ movie filled with child actors, though, the gangs don’t off each other with bullets or switchblades to the gut.

A pie in the face apparently has the power to turn the lights out for any character in the film.

When Dandy Dan and his gang appear on the scene with a powerful new weapon — a splurge gun that shoots a steady stream of cream pies at its victims — Fat Sam’s gang is in trouble and Bugsy is caught in the middle.

Besides being stuck in wrong end of a gang war, Bugsy is also torn between the feminine wiles of two training-bra sporting damsels: Blousey Brown (Florrie Dugger) and Tallulah (an unbelievably young Jodie Foster).

The movie’s plot, though, is just a flimsy excuse to move the story from song to song — a fact that I am A-OK with.

The movie’s songs were written and partially record by Paul “Rainbow Connection” Williams. The filmmakers made the odd choice of using adult singers to perform the songs and having the film’s child actors merely lip sync.

While the decision is pretty weird and may or may not have been the best choice — there is no denying the music is catchy to the extreme.

Bugsy Malone is not a film easy to define — but it’s one that hard to deny an attraction to. Bizarre production choices by Parker ultimately add to the movie’s charm — giving the film a unique quality that separates it from most everything else in its genre.

A toe-tapping pop music score from Williams is really the icing on the cake. Even without the music (which is definitely the film’s strong point), the movie would still be enjoyable for its offbeat humor and witty script.

Do yourself a favor and check this movie out.

Robert Saucedo could have been anything that he wanted to be. He became the best at writing about bad movies. Follow him on Twitter @robsaucedo2500.

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