Movie Details
Recommendation

Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

 
 
 

Ann-Margret does the Birdie Song

Next Time I have a daughter I hope it's a boy - Harry McAfee

Janet Leigh and Dick Van Dyke in Bye Bye Birdie

"Bye Bye Birdie" sounds like a musical which should be right up my street, with it's parody of the commotion caused when Elvis Presley was drafted. It also features an impressive cast which features Ann-Margret, Janet Leigh, Paul Lynde and Dick Van Dyke who not only should handle the musical aspect of this movie but also the comedy. Yet I ended up not enjoying "Bye Bye Birdie" and I suppose I didn't enjoy it because it's not my sort of musical, it is a musical all about noise, energy and screaming girls causing a commotion and to be blunt it at times borders on the head ache inducing. That doesn't mean it's a bad movie, in fact the parody side of the storyline is quite clever it's just not the pleasant, fun musical experience I expected.

For 6 years aspiring song writer Albert F. Peterson (Dick Van Dyke - Night at the Museum) has been trying to make it in the industry and now having finally come up with a song for Conrad Birdie (Jesse Pearson), the biggest star in the music industry, he ends up being drafted. But all is not lost as Albert's girlfriend Rosie (Janet Leigh - Psycho) cuts a clever deal with the Ed Sullivan show to have Birdie kiss one lucky girl as a symbolic gesture before leaving for the army and as part of the deal he sings one of Albert's songs. And that lucky girl is Kim McAfee (Ann-Margret - The Santa Clause 3) whose steady boyfriend Hugo (Bobby Rydell) is not to happy with the idea of Kim being kissed by Conrad. And Hugo is not the only one unhappy as Rosie is growing tired of Albert not being able to cut the apron strings and move on from his manipulative mother.

Ann-Margret as Kim McAfee in Bye Bye Birdie

What is good about "Bye Bye Birdie" is the various storylines because they are clever and easy to relate to. The whole parody side of things with Conrad Birdie obvious being based on Elvis Presley is simply wonderful, bordering on the sublime as screaming hoards of girls faint when he sings. You've got to admire Jesse Pearson for not only wearing a terrible gold jump suit but for basically creating a character which is Presley but with more accentuated ticks and trade marks. And with various set ups which feel like a poor scene out of one of Presley's movies the jokes are definitely there.

But that is only part of the story because then you have the fun of Rosie DeLeon becoming frustrated by her boyfriend Albert because he is manipulated by his mother. It's such an obvious storyline but one which is full of fun especially with Dick Van Dyke doing such a wonderful job of the comedy. And that is the thing about "Bye Bye Birdie" the various storylines are good fun and the jokes such as Albert creating a speed up tablet is just as amusing, even more so in this day and age.

But then here is the problem, or at least for me, and that is as a musical "Bye Bye Birdie" is noisy. A scene which sees Kim singing with all her friends on the phone ends up in a volomous cacophony of screaming teenagers, or at least actors playing teenagers. And that is not the only scene as there are other very energetic and very noisy musical numbers which whilst very 60s in style end up feeling like just noise. The flip side is that there are some enjoyable musical scenes and whilst ultimately daft Dick Van Dyke singing "Put on a Happy Face" is one of the better ones.

Now talking of Dick Van Dyke well as Albert F. Peterson he does a solid job of delivering the comedy and musical numbers and the same can be said of Janet Leigh, Paul Lynde, Bobby Rydell and Maureen Stapleton. But it is very obvious that director George Sidney liked Ann-Margret and it is Ann-Margret who seems dominate much of the movie and whilst as Kim she gives a wonderful performance looking beautiful and delivering some great musical numbers it does end up feeling a little one sided.

What this all boils down to is that I wanted to like "Bye Bye Birdie" and whilst I didn't think it was a terrible musical it ended up not exciting me as much as I had hoped. There is nothing really wrong with it with Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde doing a good job of bringing comedy to things whilst Ann-Margret delivers some memorable musical numbers. But it is a very energetic and very noisy musical with scenes which end up being too full on and overly cheesy despite it being a parody of sorts.

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