The Fantasticks

Movie Information

In Brief: It took 35 years to bring this virtually unstoppable (it lasted 41 years) Off-Broadway show to the screen and another five years for it to be released (in a recut version by Francis Ford Coppola) — at which time it bombed. Well, Michael Ritchie's original cut of The Fantasticks is now available — and made me wish I was watching the cut version. My guess is that you'll like it better if you're already sold on the play. For me, what we end up with is a thin story with only one memorable song ("Try to Remember"), flatly directed and played broadly by a cast I kept wanting to slap. It is in fact a compilation of just about everything I don't like about musical theater — perfectly captured in a misguided film. I made an effort to like it — a pretty valiant one — but I glazed over fast. As I say, if you like the show, you may be good with this. I hope to never see it again myself.
Genre: Musical
Director: Michael Ritchie
Starring: Joel Grey, Joey McIntyre, Jean Louisa Kelly, Jonathon Morris, Brad Sullivan, Barnard Hughes, Teller
Rated: PG



I am sure there are those who will wish to do me a physical damage (you know who you are) for not liking The Fantasticks — the movie is safer not to like than the show. And I admit the closest I’ve come to the show itself was seeing the OCR album in collections belonging to friends who were more taken with musical theater than I was. Otherwise, it was just that song — “Try to Remember” — which was endlessly warbled by everyone who could sing (Robert Goulet comes to mind) and everyone who thought they could sing (Mike Douglas, anyone?) on variety TV shows in the 1960s. I admit that the show may have charms that are not apparent in the film — but the songs remain the same and the film was written by the same guys who wrote the show, though I understand that the change from its minimalist staging is supposed to have dimmed its appeal. Nonetheless, I am skeptical.




The film, in any case, is just not good. Oh, it’s professionally made, sure. But it feels false, forced, and phony. The casting is a nightmare — whether we’re talking veteran Joel Grey, New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre, or the endlessly mugging Jonathon Morris (who looks like the love child of Michael Bolton and Weird Al Yankovic). The story — to use a word I normally eschew — is the definition of “twee.” In essence, two fathers (Grey and Brad Sullivan) have manufactured a feud so that their terminally vapid children (McIntyre and Jean Louisa Kelly) will fall in love. (Yes, well…) To make this work even better, they enlist the services of possibly mystical El Gallo (Morris) — who heads up the traveling show “The Fantasticks” — to stage a scenario that will allow the son to “rescue” the daughter. Despite all this, the young lovers soon realize how completely uninteresting each other is (I knew that an hour earlier) and…Look, if this sounds interesting to you, have at it.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Fantasticks Sunday, June 14, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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