This genre hodgepodge tries hard but doesn’t work

FILM by Jorge Ignacio Castillo


Bang Bang Baby
RPL Film Theatre
Oct. 29-Nov. 1
2 out of 5

When Bang Bang Baby premiered at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival, I thought the coming-of-age musical horror-science fiction drama didn’t work at all. In hindsight I guess it’s a notch above average.

Still not as entertaining as it needs to be, though.

Life in the small Canadian town of Lonely Arms couldn’t be more boring in the 1960s. Want a job? Apply at the chemical plant. Want a different job? What part of “apply at the chemical plant” didn’t you grok? As for romance: eligible singles are few and rather entitled. But our heroine Stepphy (Jane Levy, Suburgatory) isn’t worried because any day now her beautiful singing voice will take her to the proverbial Big City, where she will marry Elvis-like superstar Bobby Shore (Justin Chatwin, Shameless).

Three major events (besides their inherent stupidity) torpedo Stepphy’s dreams: a grisly crime, a leak at the chemical plant that turns people into mutants and the arrival of Bobby Shore, whose car conveniently breaks down in Lonely Arms. All this proves too much for the teen — but wait, is her mind playing tricks to protect her from a more pedestrian kind of horror?

Bang Bang Baby’s art direction forcefully embraces artifice but it gets to be a little much at times. Musicals are already the most contrived of movies; add candy-colored lighting and high-school quality sets, and you have a concoction that’s very difficult to swallow.

On the positive side, musicals live and die on the quality of the songs and Bang Bang Baby’s are mostly okay thanks to committed performances by Chatwin, Levy and Peter Stormare (a surprisingly solid country singer).

That said, these mock Elvis and Doris Day themes are a dime a dozen. They’re just not enough to keep my attention, and the genre-bending weirdness doesn’t go far enough. YMMMV (Your musical mileage may vary).