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.