Movie Review by Debbie Winkler
Starring: Fred Astaire, Petula Clark, Tommy Steele, Don Francks, Keenan Wynn
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Release Date: 9 October 1968
Length: 141 minutes
Movie Rating: G
View Format: DVD
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars
“Fred Astaire takes on his last lead musical role in Francis Ford Coppola‘s adaptation of “Finian’s Rainbow.” The tale centers on Irishman Finian (Fred Astaire), who fights a leprechaun (Tommy Steele) over a pot of gold. Meanwhile, Finian’s lovelorn daughter (Petula Clark) makes a wish that transforms the town’s racist senator (Keenan Wynn) into a black man. Extras include the featurette “The World Premiere of Finian’s Rainbow” and the trailer.” — Netflix.com
This musical is completely crazy, but a lot of fun! The two main characters (Fred Astaire & Petula Clark) are Irish so they speak with a charming Irish lilt and are really fun to listen to. The scenery is beautiful, if a bit fake looking, as everything is super green in the forest and then pretty normal looking for the outside world. The music is upbeat and varied, including gospel songs, quartets, Irish folk songs, romantic songs and just about anything else you can think of. You never know what the next song is going to sound like! Most of the songs are pretty funny, though, and include upbeat and interesting choreography. One of my favorite songs in this movie is “When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love, I Love the Girl I’m Near.” I mean, come on, how can you beat lyrics like that?! “How are Things in Glocca Morra?” is absolutely beautiful and “That Old Devil Moon” is an old classic. There are so many songs in this musical that are really fun that it is hard to list all of my favorites!
The plot is really weird and includes just about every hot button that could insult people that is out there. A bigoted politician (Keenan Wynn) is magically turned black and suddenly becomes all soulful and into his “brothers”; Finian’s daughter (Petula Clark) is charged with witchcraft because the 1600s law has never been repealed; an African-American college graduate (Al Freeman Jr.) pretends to be just like all of the black servants in the movies to get a job; an inventor (Al Freeman Jr.) & his investor (Don Francks) are trying to grow mentholated tobacco so they can become rich; the sheriff (Dolph Sweet) is prejudiced as are all of the other leaders in town and they really put down the African-Americans there; and more. Funnily enough, they find a way to make all of these random plot threads work without being offensive (except for the most sensitive of viewers).
The main detraction of this movie for me is that it is just a bit on the boring side. I feel like they tackled too many plot threads and so this movie is about 2.5 hours long. I know, I know, this is the normal length for a live production, but you can really speed things up or slow things down in a movie version and they really chose to slow this one down. I selected it because I love Fred Astaire and this is the last movie that he starred in as the featured role so I wanted to see it. It is fun and entertaining and there are a few musical numbers that are really lovely, but it is not going to become one of my favorite movie musicals. Still, this is an enjoyable rental and I wish that this musical was performed live more often so that others could be exposed to this random, offbeat, quirky musical.
This movie features racism, prejudice, bigoted white people in a small town, tobacco planting and experimentation, witchcraft, leprechaun magic, romantic relationships and some other controversial themes presented in a funny way. Recommended for ages 8 and up.