Monday, February 01, 2016


At the turn of the (20th) century, the Robinson family heads off for two weeks at a Catskills resort called Kissamee. There's Father (Louis Calhern), Mother (Ann Harding), two young boys, and two girls: the younger Melba (Debbie Reynolds) and her 17-year-old sister Patti (Jane Powell). Melba is excited about meeting up again with Billy (Carlton Carpenter), the son of the resort manager, but Billy only has eyes for Patti. Unfortunately, Patti only has eyes for Demi (Ricardo Montalban), a handsome Cuban visiting the resort for the first time. And, of course, Demi seems to be enthralled by a visiting starlet (Phyllis Kirk). This romantic roundelay is played out in tedious detail, with the climax occurring when Patti's dad finally buys her a corset so she can feel like a grown-up. Yes, this entire movie hinges on whether or not Patti will get to wear a corset.

This seems to have been an attempt by MGM at making another MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, and it just goes to show you how difficult it is to set out to make a masterpiece. This has a decent cast—though Jane Powell, fun as she is, is no Judy Garland—and colorful sets and costumes, but it just lies there on the screen with everyone trying way too hard to breathe life into the flaccid story. When you remember that ST. LOUIS hinged on whether or not the Smith family would move to New York, it might not seem such a far stretch to hope that an equally entertaining movie could spring from the story of whether or not Jane Powell will get a corset. But it's not to be. Powell is part of the problem, or more to the point, her character is. Patti is whiny, obnoxious, self-defeating,  and very hard to care about. By the halfway point, I was ready for her to drown in the lake and let the movie focus on the much more appealing Debbie Reynolds. In fact, the high point of the movie is the song "Aba Daba Honeymoon," performed by Reynolds and the lanky, quirkily cute Carlton Carpenter. Most of Powell's songs are operatic in style and uninteresting. There's a cute scene of all the camp kids singing together—which is directly reminiscent of scenes in ST. LOUIS—and a fun moment when a whole lot of fireworks hidden under a bed go off by accident. Otherwise, this is eminently skipable; you can see most of the "Aba Daba Honeymoon" number in the compilation movie THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT. [TCM]

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