Set in America's heartland, this timeless musical tells the story of two young teens who find true love with the help of their fathers, a traveling carnival road show... and, of course, a little magic. This 1995 film was ... more »directed by Michael Ritchie and stars Joel Grey, Barnard Hughes, Jean Louisa Kelly, and Joe McIntyre. Based on the long-running off-off-Broadway musical by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt.« less
Alex P. (x3iv) from PEMBROKE, VA Reviewed on 12/21/2009...
Two stars for the fact that vestiges of the original show can be seen. Zero stars for the actual story here... they've butchered it to make it into a movie. I've directed this show once, and been in it twice... and this is a second-rate shadow of the stage show. The heart has been torn out of El Gallo, he's reduced to some sort of devilish clown. The comedy brought by Mortimer gets completely sacrificed because they cast Teller in the role and--OF COURSE!-- he can't say a word! What an utter disappointment. Do not judge this show based on this dismal presentation. Go see it live or you'll never know what it's really like.
Don D. from FARMINGTON, NM Reviewed on 11/18/2009...
One of the better little known Musicals of the 60's. Stage play played for record number of years in many many towns across America in a simpler time.
A brilliant cinematic adaptation of a classic stage musical.
CodeMaster Talon | 01/02/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Fantasticks is one of those theatrical pieces that works so perfectly on stage that it seems impossible to adapt to the screen. I attended a pre-release screening, and can happily report that director Michael Ritchie has beautifully accomplished the near impossible feat, translating the simple heartwarming stage musical into a simply stylized film musical while retaining all of its charm.The show on stage is performed without sets and with a lot of poetic suggestion from the script and imagination from the audience. On film it is not exactly transported to reality, but would more accurately be described as surrealistic, which fits the musical format perfectly. The film is set in the 1920s, a relatively more "innocent" time, at least in our memories, and thus makes the innocence and naivete of the young lovers easily palatable. The characters, let by Joel Gray as one of the fathers, live in the middle of a barren desert, their houses situated side by side and separated by a white picket fence. A mysterious carnival sets up shop nearby, run by magician/illusionist El Gallo, whom the fathers hire to arrange an abduction that will bring their children together. The story plays itself out pretty much the same as on stage (the original writers were wisely retained), and due to its strange, surrealistic quality it all makes sense in a dream-like way, even when the characters break into song.All but one of the beautiful songs are in the film--the "Plant a Radish" song is gone, but is not really missed, as it didn't advance the story that much. The "Rape Ballet" song from the original version of the show has been changed to a more politically correct similar song that didn't use such an ugly word as "rape" but serves the same purpose. (I'm told that several years ago the original song had been replaced by this one in the stage show as well, though I'm not certain. The show has been playing Off-Broadway for 40 years.) Perhaps the most well-known song from the show, "Try to Remember" is not sung at the beginning as on stage, but rather at the very end, which is quite fitting for the film as selected clips of the preceding film are intercut like faded memories. The "Metaphor" song is cleverly staged at the carnival in front of a silent film of romantic scenes. "Soon It's Gonna Rain" is sung under a big tree with El Gallo hiding in the branches while sprinkling glittering rain onto the love-struck couple, and performers from the carnival hiding in the bushes providing vocal accompaniment--a skillful melding of the theatrical and cinematic.The vocals of the actors are all superb. Musical arrangements which where just a piano and harp on stage are now fully orchestrated, but not overdone and work well. Finally, in keeping with the theatrical spirit of the piece, the cast actually does a curtain call from the carnival stage during the end credits.Theatre purists should not be wary of this film. Fans of the show should not be disappointed as long as they are not expecting a mere filmed stageplay. Understandably, it is not really a commercial picture to compete with the special effects action flicks popular with the coveted teen audiences, so it will just have a limited theatrical release in big city art houses. In fact, the picture was film five years ago but languished on the shelf as a difficult-to-market film. Thankfully it will finally introduce millions of non-theatregoers to the wonderful story and songs, and will probably do most business on home video among traditional musical lovers. The DVD release takes advantage of the wonderful score, the ability to search for favorite songs at random, as well as deleted scenes.See "The Fantasticks". Especially if you are an adult. It will remind you of what it was like to be young and innocent. You will want to revisit that feeling over and over again. As this work reminds us, that innocence is something none of us realize we have until we have lost it. There's no other way to know it. Kind of bittersweet, but a paradox of life."
The kind of September, when grass was green...
CodeMaster Talon | Orlando, FL United States | 04/24/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This film version of the wildly popular musical was very nearly scrapped, but the intervention of Francis Ford Coppola gave it a limited release on the big screen followed by the video release. Is it any good? Well, yes and no.The plot concerns the machinations of two next door neighbors who pretend to have a feud in the hopes that their children will fall in love (the lure forbidden fruit and all that). They enlist the help of a strange traveling circus to aid them in their plan. The first half of the movie is quite decent and somewhat sweet, and I enjoyed it very much. And then, for some reason, the movie completely derails, gets flat out bizarre (and earns its PG rating) before ending on a weird note. If you are a die-hard fan of the original musical you will probably hate this movie, because the music has been basically butchered. The performances range from good (Joel Grey) to lame (Joe McIntyre) to inexplicable (Vegas magician Teller). But then there is Jonathan Morris. I've never seen him in anything else, but he has an incredible, mesmerizing presence. The script changes his character completely halfway through the film, which is annoying, but his performance continues to stay with me, especially his gentle rendition of "Try to Remember" (which, despite being the most famous song in the musical, is given about one minute of screen time. Grrr.). He made the movie worth seeing (once) for me, but all others beware. It's really too bad; there was great potential here but the filmmakers muffed it. Maybe they'll try again someday, but until then you can check out the original Broadway soundtrack to see what all the fuss was about in the first place. I give this film version 2.5 stars, which I rounded down to two. Morris is really the only reason to catch this one.Movie Grade: C/C-"
The Unkindest Cut(s) Of All.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 07/27/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Over the course of my 20 year theatrical "career" I appeared in three different productions of THE FANTASTICKS. First in high school, then in community theatre, and finally in a professional theatre. Each time I played the same role of Mortimer, the man who dies (that's because I couldn't sing but I did die rather well). Imagine my indignation when I discovered that he was all but eliminated in this film version of the long running musical along with Henry, the old actor. As played by Teller (of Penn & Teller) and Barnard Hughes this constitutes a criminal offense on the part of Francis Ford Coppola who was responsible for re-editing the original film five years after it was finished. But that's only the beginning. He also shortened or removed several of the play's signature tunes (TRY TO REMEMBER, PLANT A RADISH) as well as key scenes including the one with the cardboard moon which states the central point of the play which is "to see it not with your eyes for they are wise but with your ears". Why this was done is hard to fathom as it not only minimizes the storyline but reduces the musical moments as well. Fortunately the DVD has all this missing material (as bonus features) which allows you to reconstruct the film as it was and should have been released. Despite the hatchet job in the editing room there is still a lot to recommend. The play had to be opened up from its humble stage origins and this was done by giving it an OKLAHOMA like setting (it was shot in the same location) and by making El Gallo the head of a mysterious traveling carnival. The performances by the entire cast are not overpowering but they are not meant to be and they fit the characters just fine. Remember THE FANTASTICKS was created as a sort of anti-musical in reaction to the large scale Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals of the day and with an eye to amateur performances. The cinematography is lovely, the updated script by original creators Tom Jones & Harvey Schmidt works well and despite the misguided efforts of Coppola there is still the simple, memorable music that retains the power to grab you if you "see it with your ears". So in the end I was pleased with the film overall with the 5 star musical getting a 4 star treatment minus a star for the horrendous editing. If you love THE FANTASTICKS (or old fashioned musicals in general) then this DVD is certainly worth having and maybe one day the film will be released as originally shot so that we don't have to play the King's men and try and put Humpty Dumpty together again. The commentary by director Michael Ritchie is entertaining and informative regarding how and why certain things were done."
Peter Mins | Palm Springs, CA USA | 11/23/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Any lover of this show would be devastated at what this film turned out to be. It is one of those shows that perhaps should have been filmed while being performed live (ala Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, etc.). The magic of this show while seeing it live in a small space is that it creates a world out of nothing, and the audience gets totally caught up in it. I couldn't wait to see this film when I heard it was made. It was the first show in which I ever appeared, and I have designed costumes and seen many productions of it. Even the worst ones came across better than this film. I'm crushed. If you have seen this musical on stage anywhere, keep the memory of that magical time and don't bother with this DVD."
Please Give Us Back the Fantasticks
JAMES WETTERAU | Garner, NC | 01/07/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"When I received this DVD for Christmas, I was really anxious to see it. You see, my wife and I saw the Fantasticks when we were dating more than 40 years ago, loved it then and have loved the music ever since. I was hoping for a great movie. I knew that Joel Gray and Barnard Hughes would be great as the scheming fathers, but had no idea about the rest of the cast.
So I put it in the DVD player, waiting for the lyrical opening of "Try to Remember". From then on it was all downhill.
They have BUTCHERED this story. It has been turned from an idealistic love story about a young couple in love to a comedy about a carnival which two young people happen to wander through. Most of the music is gone, and what is left is rather poorly done. "Try to Remember" is tagged on ever too briefly at the end, "Soon its Gonna Rain" is more spoken than sung.
To make the music of the Fantasticks work, it takes good singers. And if the music does not work in this story, why bother? This cast just does not cut it. The boy and girl are adequate, but there is no chemistry between them. The main character, El Gallo, is played by Jonathan Morris as a schemer, (which is true) but not attractive enough, and nowhere near good enough a singer. A key to this plot is that when El Gallo captures the girl so that the boy can "rescue" her, he is so charming that she starts to fall in love with him. This is because of both his charm and singing voice. Jonathan Morris had neither. Of if he had them, they do not give him enough songs to sing in order to tell. Just think of the charm of Jerry Ohrbach, who originated the role off Broadway more than 40 years ago; (even as aging Lennie Briscoe in Law and Order Jerry Ohrbach had more charm than this El Gallo has) and you get a sense of what kind of character El Gallo should be. His character is crucial to this story succeeding. But not in this movie.
They have turned the focus from the songs and the kids and the love story to the Dads and slapstick comedy. This is a BIG mistake.
Then they have cut out most of the songs. If you do not believe me, watch the outtakes. The outtakes have the foundation of a good movie. If you add the musical outtakes to the movie it would be tons better and almost decent.
Basically, I am truly sad to say, this was a mess.
Instead of watching this movie, get the orignal NY cast soundtrack recording, put it on in a candlelit room with someone you love and a couple of glasses of wine, and enjoy what the Fantasticks should really be like."