‘Bang Bang Baby’ DVD Review
In writer/director Jeffrey St. Jules’ first feature film, Bang Bang Baby, he mashes up cheesy horror with a satirical 1960s musical in a car accident that you just can’t look away from.
The movie, set in the 1960s, starts out with bright lights on young Stepphy (Jane Levy) who hopes to someday become a Hollywood star alongside her teen idol Bobby Shore (Justin Chatwin). She’s entered a New York talent competition in the hopes of getting out of the small Canadian town of Lonely Arms and making all of her dreams come true.
Stepphy’s dreams are derailed, however, when her alcoholic father, George (Peter Stormare), refuses to let her go. If that wasn’t enough, creepy chemical plant-owner Fabian (David Reale) takes advantage of Stepphy as she descends into a drunken haze.
But wait, there’s hope! Dreamy Bobby Shore’s car happens to break down near Stepphy’s house, where Stepphy herself is a mechanic. He’s stranded there for weeks, leaving him in the care and crooning of Stepphy.
If she could just sing for Bobby, he would see that she’s the leading lady he needs, but the purple mist leaking out of the chemical plant starts mutating Lonely Arms’ residents, Stepphy included. Will she ever get out of this town and realize her dreams?
With its original songs, costumes, over-the-top acting and lighting choices, Bang Bang Baby is a quirky satirical homage to both the 1960s musicals and B-movie horrors it emulates. St. Jules masterfully drops hints throughout the movie as to the twists he has in store for Stepphy.
However, once the audience takes that turn, the movie should start making more sense, not less. Reality and fantasy collide, leaving the audience confused as to what’s actually going on. If the goal is to make the audience as confused and lost as Stepphy, then St. Jules hit his mark. If he wanted to answer all the questions he posed, he sorely missed and lost his audience.
The ending, however, is satisfying for our heroine, even if it was an odd journey to get there.
The redemption for Bang Bang Baby’s rabbit hole plot is its cast. Levy sells the vulnerable dreamer Stepphy with the voice of an angel. St. Jules has Levy playing the innocent, the caretaker, the siren and hero all in one movie, and Levy nails each facet of Stepphy.
Chatwin is the most entertaining person on screen as Bobby Shore and delivers an exaggerated performance which fits the movie’s tone and helps us laugh. Bobby Shore is a cartoon, and Chatwin leans into it with the best results.
Reale’s Fabian is desperate, cruel and sad. From the moment we meet Fabian, alarms start ringing in our minds for Stepphy to run away as fast as she can.
St. Jules uses the purple mist as a character in and of itself. It creeps into Stepphy’s romance with Bobby whenever it’s most unwelcome and tips us off to impending doom.
Despite the great cast, composition and catchy songs, Bang Bang Baby’s plot twists were too much for this indie film. While we may be rooting for our heroine, when all is said and done, the audience walks away from this movie dazed and confused.