For the Boys | Chicago Reader

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This one took me completely by surprise. An epic musical about two USO entertainers (Bette Midler and James Caan) who form a nonromantic show-biz team and perform together over three wars and half a century, it has the sort of scope, pizzazz, and feeling we used to expect from Hollywood but haven't seen in a good while. Caan plays an entertainer very much like Bob Hope (politically he supports the status quo, and his signature tune, “I Remember You,” recalls “Thanks for the Memories”); Midler's character, who specializes in Mae West-style double entendres, is a more rambunctious sort with a gutsy liberal conscience. Both of them are quite effective, as are George Segal, as the acerbic wit who writes Caan's jokes and winds up getting blacklisted, and Christopher Rydell, who plays Midler's son. This is one of the corniest movies imaginable, and I'm not even sure it qualifies as art, but it's a solid piece of entertainment that had me weeping buckets by the end. Mark Rydell (The Rose) directed from an uncommonly good script by Marshall Brickman, Neal Jimenez, and Lindy Laub. Not all of the dialogue is period perfect, but the production design (Assheton Gorton) and the makeup and score (both by many hands) deserve special thanks. With Patrick O'Neal, Arye Gross, Norman Fell, Rosemary Murphy, Bud Yorkin, Jack Sheldon, and Shannon Wilcox (1991).

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