BetteBack Review November 27, 1991: ‘Boys’ fails to deliver on promise

Syracuse Herald Journal
November 27, 1991


For the Boys” won’t signal a return of musical movies despite its wealth of zesty numbers.

“Boys” suffers from a classic case of reach exceeding grasp. Its ambition is to be more than a succession of tunes, aspiring to cover changes in America over 50 years. But it has to stop at regular intervals for star Bette Midler to sing.

That’s not a hardship since Midler is at the peak of her singing powers and the tough, yet tender, woman she plays has been tailored perfectly for her acting talents.

The initial meeting of singer Dixie Leonard (Midler) and comedian Eddie Sparks (James Caan) is far from auspicious. Trading quips with the headliner in World War II England, the usually sweet Dixie lets loose with some off-color jokes that infuriate Sparks, especially
since she stole the show with them. Only the intervention of her uncle, who’s the comedian’s head writer, saves Leonard’s job.

The uncle predicts: “You and Dixie are going to be big – bigger than Burns & Allen. Bigger than Hope and Crosby.” Sure enough, the pair become TV superstars of the ’50s. How they accomplish this is a mystery, since there’s no transition.

In one scene, they’re in World War II; in the next, they’re superstars.

IT’S AS IF the writers had scrupulously followed a “How To Write,.a Screenplay” textbook,, allowing Leonard and Sparks to recall the decades encompassing their professional and private lives.

The Korean and Vietnam wars and the heinous blacklisting led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy dot their professional lives.

But it’s all played out in predictable fashion. Moviegoers don’t have to be geniuses to know the team will squabble and part acrimoniously, that a marriage will be wrecked and that a loved one will be lost.

Early on, it appears Caan will create a memorable portrait of Sparks. His entrance is marked by strolling onstage in front of the troops with the aplomb of Bob Hope. Yet, he rarely goes beyond that assured opening. His character only comes to life when he’s at his most vulnerable.

It looks as if the sprawling canvas of “For The Boys” has been fingerpainted, instead of splashed with durable oils.

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