I know! America's sweetheart -- or...errr...whatever the male equivalent of that is -- has been drafted. Untold millions of smitten, shrieking teenage girls have taken to the streets in protest. Where some people see poodle skirts and bobby socks (or, I dunno, whatever kids were wearing back then), Rosie DeLeon (Janet Leigh) spies a business opportunity. See, Rosie's fiancÚ Albert (Dick Van Dyke) has frittered away every last cent he had and then some trying to make it as a songwriter. Total number
...and when I say "everybody", right up there at the top of that list is Kim McAfee (Ann-Margret), the smalltown Ohio firecracker who gets to lock lips with the man of her dreams. Oh, wait. Her newly-minted boyfriend (Bobby Rydell) isn't all that hot on the idea. Heck, neither is Kim's pop (Paul Lynde). I mean, having Conrad, Albert, and Rosie practically take over his house is bad enough, but what'll all this mean for the future of the McAfee Fertlizer Company?! Ooooohhhhh, the whole thing is getting pretty tenuous. Everybody's trying to charm everyone else into staying onboard, making promises they can't exactly keep. It turns out that Conrad is kind of a prick. Rosie's patience is running awfully thin. Albert's having a tough time focusing on...well, anything since he's constantly dropping it all to cater to every last whim of his domineering mother (Maureen Stapleton). Romances fizzle! The Russians are coming! The cash cow's been put out to pasture! It'll take more than a couple of miracles to pull this whole
From its candy-coated visuals to a sweet-'n-sultry breakout performance by Ann-Margret, Bye Bye Birdie is a two hour sugar rush of a musical. Everything about those eye-popping Technicolor hues screams "fun!", exclamation point and all. It has a gleefully ridiculous sense of humor, including a runner with a tortoise doped up on speed. Hey, I'm also pretty darn sure that Bye Bye Birdie has the distinction of being the only G-rated musical with a climax swirling around homebrew amphetamines, or at least something in that general neighborhood. The movie also gets a lot out of its supremely talented cast. Dick Van Dyke is as much of a blast as ever, turning up here as a biochemist-turned-failed-songwriter that can't quite manage to grow up. Janet Leigh makes the most of a role heavily truncated from the original Broadway musical. In lesser hands, Rosie could very easily have devolved into a shrill harpy, and Leigh ensures that she's not just sympathetic but is the duct tape keeping this whole sack of potatoes from falling apart. Paul Lynde naturally steals just about every last scene he's in. ...and then there's Ann-Margret in the role that made her a household name. Her take on Kim manages to be both girl-next-door wholesome and va-va-voom, in keeping with a sixteen year old who's just now blossoming into womanhood and is still trying to figure
I fell in love with Bye Bye Birdie based just on its iconic opening sequence that was excerpted in Mad Men a few years back, and...hey! There really is a lot there to like. It's just that at the end of the day, Bye Bye Birdie is a musical comedy, and it's not that great a musical and not that great a comedy. There are only a couple of earworms in the entire film: the first standout is the title song that Ann-Margret belts out against that solid blue background, and the other big one is Dick Van Dyke and Janet Leigh's "Put on a Happy Face". Several of the other songs are fun and bouncy and generally okay, but they don't really get lodged in my head. The premise as a whole is based on Elvis getting drafted, and Conrad Birdie's songs are all seasoned with The King's flavor of rock-'n-roll. They're...mostly awful, though, especially "Honestly Sincere", which boasts the clumsiest set of lyrics in a musical this side of "Life Is Nothing But Show Business in 1994" from The Apple. Nothing about Jesse Pearson screams "teen heartthrob!", woefully miscast in the part of Conrad Birdie. Though I'm not crazy about "How Lovely to Be a Woman" or "A Lot of Livin' to Do" as songs, Ann-Margret does her damndest to ensure they're showstopping numbers just the same. Still, the pace kinda plods along for a pretty long while there, feeling impossibly bloated at its nearly two hour runtime.
I'm torn! There's a lot I like about Bye Bye Birdie and every bit as much I don't. Still, a few laughs, a couple terrific musical numbers, some spectacular staging, and putting Ann-Margret front and center can go an awfully long way, and it sure doesn't hurt that this is one of the best-looking Blu-ray discs on the market right now. Oooohhhh, I guess I'll err on the side of smiles and say that Bye Bye Birdie comes Recommended.
Bye Bye Birdie is gorgeous, delivering a class of Technicolor eye candy that's very rarely been rivaled on Blu-ray. This is coming from someone who's notoriously stingy with five star ratings too, and I still can't fathom giving Bye Bye Birdie anything less than a perfect score. This high definition remaster is spectacularly sharp and detailed; no matter how high I'd set my expectations beforehand, Bye Bye Birdie easily trumps 'em. Its sumptuous, candy-colored palette is rendered brilliantly. Bye Bye Birdie's warm, filmic texture has also been faithfully preserved, not that its sheen of grain is the least bit intrusive in the first place. There's not even a little bit of wear, damage, or flecks of dust to fret about here. Simply put, this presentation of Bye Bye Birdie is perfect, to the point where I'd recommend shelling out the disc's asking price of thirty dollars on those merits alone.
Oh, and just because I know so many people got their first taste of Bye Bye Birdie courtesy of the third season of Mad Men, I figured I might as well show how dramatically improved this presentation is over the film's previous appearance on Blu-ray.
Bye Bye Birdie's high bitrate AVC encode spans both layers of this BD-50 disc. As you can hopefully tell from the screenshots scattered all over this review, the film is presented on Blu-ray at its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.
I'm thrilled to say that I get to lavish that same off-the-charts level of praise on Bye Bye Birdie's lossless soundtrack. Presented in 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio, the film's musical numbers are remarkably rich and full, positively roaring from every speaker. The distinctness and clarity of the instrumentation also shine on Blu-ray, and...well, just about everything else throughout Bye Bye Birdie is dazzlingly clean and clear as well. The surrounds are primarily used to reinforce the music, although they also dish out some atmosphere when appropriate, such as the raucous
English (SDH) subtitles and an isolated score have also been provided here.
The Final Word
As dazzling Technicolor eye candy, the effervescent and infectiously cute Bye Bye Birdie is tough to top. It easily ranks among the absolute most gorgeous of the 1,500 so films I've watched on Blu-ray...and I'd be saying that even if it didn't star a knockout like Ann-Margret. On the other hand, it's also overly long, light on laughs, and only trots out a handful of truly memorable musical numbers. At least for my money, it works better as an experience than it does as a movie, but...hey! What an experience it is, and one that's still very much Recommended.