Bette Midler lays siege to aÂ movie like a drunk busting up aÂ birthday party. She bellows. SheÂ flaps her arms. She knocks overÂ the punch bowl. Then, afterÂ accosting every guest, she insistsÂ on blowing out all the candles onÂ the cake herself. Look at me!Â each gesture shouts. Still here!
So it goes in “For the Boys,”Â two and a half hours and someÂ $40 million worth of pure Bettebomb which manages to trivialize the social history of threeÂ American wars while the
obstreperous Midler and herÂ unlucky costar, James Caan, tryÂ to sing, joke and soft-shoe theirÂ way into our hearts.
If you’re looking for a primerÂ on all the ways a movie can goÂ wrong â€” makeup to mawkishness, script to sets â€” this is it.Â Rarely will you see such graveÂ follies committed in the name ofÂ e n t e r t a i nme n t . .. or politicalÂ commentary.
Our heroes, Dixie LeonardÂ and Eddie Sparks, are troupers ofÂ the show-must-go-on variety.Â They meet, suitably enough, in aÂ bomber hanger in England, onÂ the occasion of saucy, spunky,Â virtually unknown young Dixie’s Big Break: She’s been drafted toÂ do a wartime USO tour with theÂ great star Eddie, and she’s plentyÂ nervous. But before he can recycleÂ his usual’ crooner/one-liner shriek,Â she lights up the adoring GIs withÂ a couple of dirty jokes, then flashesÂ an expanse of plump, milky thighÂ and puts the boys away with a Â steamy version of “P.S.: I LoveÂ You,” lit only by the flickeringÂ beams of three hundred Army AirÂ Force flashlights. Predictably,Â Dixie steals the show from theÂ egotistical headliner. He sneersÂ under his pencil line mustache. HeÂ wants to fire her immediately.
But Caan lets the camera greedy Midler mug him so thoroughly all movie long that I began
hoping the Sonny-deep-within himÂ would finally get ragged off andÂ send Luca Brazzi after her.
Midler also produced this thing,Â and she’ll get what she deserves.