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Fantasticks
     

The Fantasticks

3.5 6
Director: Michael Ritchie, Joel Grey, Barnard Hughes, Jean Louisa Kelly

Cast: Michael Ritchie, Joel Grey, Barnard Hughes, Jean Louisa Kelly

 

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This is one unexpected DVD, and a delightful one as well, and one of the most entertaining releases in the format. When Michael Ritchie's movie of The Fantasticks opened in the fall of 2000, it had been sitting on a shelf for five years, and was considered missing-in-action by most observers. Why it was held up is anyone's guess, but the movie proved a delight,

Overview

This is one unexpected DVD, and a delightful one as well, and one of the most entertaining releases in the format. When Michael Ritchie's movie of The Fantasticks opened in the fall of 2000, it had been sitting on a shelf for five years, and was considered missing-in-action by most observers. Why it was held up is anyone's guess, but the movie proved a delight, one of the more clever cinematic adaptations of a stage musical to appear in several decades. It was gone from theaters in a few weeks and not mentioned again until this DVD turned up. The mix of the beguiling score and the guileless story -- a reversal of Romeo and Juliet that sort of anticipates The Princess Bride -- taken into the vast Arizona locales of the film, with the expanded scoring for the music, was enchanting in a theater and it works stunningly on DVD as well. The film-to-video transfer is gorgeous, every color tone captured perfectly and some of it, such as the carnival in the background of the woods as the boy and girl sing "Soon It's Gonna Rain," is absolutely aglow in a perfectly appropriate way. Indeed, the carnival sequences are a veritable explosion of radiant color. The makers also paid careful attention to the sound, in the theatrical edition and even more so here -- the stereo separation is carefully balanced to create an illusion of spaciousness in keeping with the expansion of the original play from the theater stage. The music is also beautifully balanced, capturing the lyricism of numbers like "Metaphor" and the harder sound of "I Can See It" with equal vibrancy. The letterboxing also allows the viewer to fully appreciate the cleverness of various elements of the design of the film, particularly the juxtaposing of the two houses of the contending families and the use of the silent film in the background of "Metaphor." The montage accompanying "Round and Round" also makes full use of the Panavision screen and can only really be appreciated that way. The cast is perfect, with Jonathon Morris energizing the whole film in his performance as El Gallo, and Joe McIntyre and Jean Louisa Kelly ideal as the young couple who move from innocence to experience and nearly lose their love in the process. If this disc contained only the movie, it would be worth the list price, but there are more than two hours of dazzling bonus material appended to the film. The songs that had to be deleted from the original score and entire scenes that were dropped -- including the first appearance of "Try to Remember" at the opening of the movie -- are included in their entirety; the introductory version of "Try to Remember" ought to have been included, if only for the visual unity that it would have set up with the finale; "Plant a Radish" is such a delightful romp by Joel Grey and Brad Sullivan that losing it was a shame, but at least it's on the disc; and "The Rape Song," as composed for the original 1960 production, which has since been replaced to accommodate contemporary sensibilities about the word "rape," was shot as a finished number. Another part of the supplement features extended versions of songs that made it into the film in edited versions, which is simply a matter of the producers conjuring extra slices into a very delicious cake. The best feature of all, however, is the secondary audio commentary by director Michael Ritchie, who walks us through every shot, every change in the script and story from the original, every line of every song, and the entire genesis of the play from its 1960 origins to 1995 and the making of the movie. He tells how the film ended up being shot in the same Arizona valley where Fred Zinnemann's Oklahoma! was made in the 1950s, and how he managed to get a silent Romeo and Juliet made for a key scene without a budget for any of it -- and he goes into the psychology of his characters, in what has to be one of the finest, most detailed, and delightfully involved commentary tracks by a director yet heard for home viewing. Ritchie explains the switch from "The Rape Song" in the original play to "The Abduction Song," but one gets the real sense -- borne out by the fact that the original was also shot -- that he loves the original with a genuine passion. His account of how Joel Grey and Brad Sullivan ended up singing live is fascinating, and he has a real sense of his actors and what their full capabilities were, including Jonathon Morris' essential experience in pantomime acting. He also gives a breakdown of how shots from a Los Angeles soundstage and an Arizona valley were intercut seamlessly in the same scene. His narration is so full of information and delivered with such joy that it can be played repeatedly without any wearing out of its welcome. It's also a compelling experience to hear an artist who obviously loves his subject delight in getting inside of it on two levels -- the play in the course of making the movie, and the movie in discussing its creation here. It's all a stunning 87 minutes of movie and many days of supplementary treats, accessible through a simple, easy-to-navigate menu that vividly maps out the bonus materials in several layers.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Making a theatrical film out of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's The Fantasticks, the longest running play (and musical) in American history, seems like an improbable project. Devised for an off-Broadway production with a small cast, on a very small stage, The Fantasticks defies the conventions of cinema. The play, for 40 years a favorite of student and semi-professional companies, is something of a relic of the pre-1960s era that spawned it -- a teenaged girl and boy living in neighboring farm houses in some indeterminate time in the past are attracted to each other with help from their fathers who, in a triumph of reverse psychology, pretend to feud with each other in order to encourage the pair. Now it is time to end the feud, but how? Stage a kidnapping with help from a carnival entertainer and let the boy rescue the girl, thus providing a basis for the end of the feud. All goes well and their love is declared, and the second act deals with the couple's disillusionment and unhappiness with each other -- about losing innocence and falling out of love, and discovering a deeper, more enduring and mature form of love in the process. Director Michael Ritchie has accomplished a nimble conjuring trick, helped by a delightful cast. He has elicited performances from Jean Louisa Kelly and Joe McIntyre (formerly a member of New Kids on the Block) of extraordinary charm and vibrancy, while Joel Gray and Brad Sullivan, as the fathers, make a delightful comic double act as charming curmudgeons with their children's best interests at heart. And Jonathon Morris as El Gallo -- a role that Jerry Orbach originated -- is the sparkplug of the piece, a wry-witted rogue who combines Errol Flynn-style bravado with charming, earthy seediness, and dominates every shot in which he appears. Music director Jonathan Tunick has expanded the score (including the hits "Try to Remember" and "Soon It's Gonna Rain") to fit the needs of the big screen and the expansive setting of Arizona's San Rafael Valley without losing sight of the simplicity of the original work.

Product Details

Release Date:
02/27/2001
UPC:
0027616858443
Original Release:
1995
Rating:
PG
Source:
Mgm (Video & Dvd)
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Sound:
[Dolby Digital]
Time:
1:27:00

Special Features

Feature-length audio commentary by director Michael Ritchie; More than 30 minutes of additional footage including deleted songs, extended songs, deleted scenes; Alternate ending; "Jump-to-a-song" feature; Theatrical trailer; English: 5.1 Surround; French: Stereo Surround; Spanish: Stereo Surround; French & Spanish subtitles

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Joel Grey Bellamy
Barnard Hughes Henry
Jean Louisa Kelly Luisa
Joseph McIntyre Matt
Jonathon Morris El Gallo
Brad Sullivan Hucklebee
Teller Mortimer

Technical Credits
Michael Ritchie Director,Producer
Alan Hicks Set Decoration/Design
Melissa Kent Editor
Terry Miller Associate Producer,Asst. Director
Fred Murphy Cinematographer
Kim Ornitz Sound/Sound Designer
Rick Pagano Casting
Linne Radmin Producer
Luke Reichle Costumes/Costume Designer
Edward L. Rubin Art Director
Art Schaefer Executive Producer
William Scharf Editor
Harvey Schmidt Score Composer,Screenwriter
Michael Smuin Choreography
Tim Healey Associate Producer
Tom Jones Songwriter,Screenwriter
Jonathan Tunick Musical Arrangement

Scene Index

Scene Selections
0. Scene Selections
1. Logo/Main Title [:42]
2. Kissing By Numbers [2:20]
3. Much More [3:12]
4. Never Say No [2:26]
5. Metaphor [1:27]
6. It Depends On What You Pay [3:22]
7. Soon It's Gonna Rain [1:04]
8. Happy Ending [3:06]
9. This Plum Is Too Ripe [3:21]
10. Good Time Villain [8:25]
11. I Can See It [1:30]
12. Round And Round [5:21]
13. Just A Trick [8:59]
14. They Were You [:10]
15. Try To Remember [7:47]
16. End Credits [1:22]

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The Fantasticks 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The movie is well done, but it departs from the stage production to the extent that it loses much of the magic of the stage production. It would have been much better if they had filmed an onstage production.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This adaptation is magnificent. It does truly capture the magic of the stage production, as much as a film ever possibly could. I was surprised by some of the other reviews - people should remember that it is supposed to be a little silly, it's poking fun at the world of musicals while bringing to spectacular life the fantastic nature of them. Jonathon Morris is a perfect El Gallo, and truly understands and subtly shows the depth of the character. I love the touch of using onstage-like sets.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is not hard to imagine why this movie stayed on the shelf for five years (perhaps not long enough!). What is hard to imagine is that this musical could ever have been America's longest running. As for this production: terrible direction, terrible acting. El Gallo looks "sheepish" (pained?) delivering his "Try to Remember" while staring directly into the camera. Barnard Hughes is the only saving grace to this fiasco.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a good movie; I liked it. But prepare for a bit of saccarine ... it has some musical cheesiness to it. Joe McIntyre and Jeanna Louise Kelly both do a good job. If you're a Joey fan, you'll love it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie is excellent. I worked in a theatre that did the show, and for sake of memories, I bought the video. It was SO much better than I thought it would be. It does an excellent job at capturing the true magic of the original Broadway show.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i enjoyed this movie a lot!!! i first heard of it online two years ago!! i am a huge joe mcintyre fan so i thought what the heck!! he did an excellent job in this movie!!! he can really sing!!! this movie proves that he can act and sing!!! I recommend this to anyone who likes musicals and is the ages of 15 and up!! i give this movie five stars. this is truly joe mcintyre's finest debut as an actor in a musical movie yet! hope he does more movies soon!!