Conrad Birdie is heading off to join the army and young women everywhere are not overly happy about the idea. Thankfully he is going to give one last kiss to one lucky girl on the Ed Sullivan Show where he will play his new song. All of this leads to all sorts of hijinks and humorous situations involving the cast which includes Dick Van Dyke, Ann-Margaret, Janet Leigh, Bobby Rydell and even Ed Sullivan himself.
The film called Bye Bye Birdie, based off of the Broadway musical which in turn was inspired by Elvis Presley’s stint in the army, is a good one though it does tend to find itself a little dated as the days of the teenage pop superstar, while not necessarily over, is somewhat changed from the way it used to be, especially given the advent of social media. So it is that this is more of a look back at a simpler time in the 1960s when things were a lot more innocent and idols were just that and that in part is what makes this film so charming. Combining that charm with the two love stories that take place within, the first between the two leads in Van Dyke and Leigh and the second between Margaret and Rydell and the movie might have ended up being one big ball of syrupy goo but when factoring in the musical numbers and the humour present throughout, it manages to captivate the audience in the best way possible.
With two storylines taking place simultaneously, both vie for the attention of the viewer. Dick Van Dyke is the clueless songwriter who has no idea just what his girlfriend as played by Janet Leigh wants and made all the more complicated by his mother as played by Maureen Stapleton while Ann-Margaret cannot decide if a kiss is worth more than being pinned and going steady with a young Bobby Rydell. Van Dyke is excellent and would continue to be so for decades to come while Leigh would play up the role of the exasperated girlfriend perfectly, an actress that was as comfortable playing comedic roles as much as those more serious in nature. As for Margaret, this would end up being her big breakthrough role, one where she would definitely shine and steal the spotlight more often than not from those that were supposed to be the leads of the show including Leigh who was already a proven star by this point. Rydell was solid as the young boyfriend and Jesse Pearson a decent shoo-in as the Presley-clone. Each of the stories would weave in and out of each other until that finale on the Ed Sullivan show when everything comes into the light and makes for a happy ending. From that first moment with Margaret in front of the wind machine to the last, the film would end up being thoroughly entertaining.
Over the years, Bye Bye Birdie would continue on with various revivals featuring numerous people taking on the roles but the film, though not a faithful adaptation, with its cast would continue to endure over the years to come by getting everything right on the big screen and becoming a favourite of the musical genre.
4 out of 5