Fox’s song-driven wartime showbiz meller For the Boys is a big, creaky balloon of a movie that lumbers along like a dirigible in a Thanksgiving parade, festooned with patriotic sentiment. Ambitious effort spans the 50-year relationship of two USO entertainers (Bette Midler and James Caan) whose song, dance and innuendo carries them through three wars. Allegedly a ‘love story’ between two difficult people who are each married to others, pic suffers from the couple’s lack of electricity.
Story begins in the present day, when a dapper production assistant (Arye Gross) arrives by limo to pick up Dixie for a major awards show. Midler makes a shocker of an entrance; pic then dissolves to 1942, when she was a bubbly young mother called up to join the famous Eddie Sparks in a London wartime revue.
The picture doesn’t move, it regroups: from Europe to North Africa, then to Korea, through the bloodbath of McCarthyism and finally to Vietnam. The details of costume and design are convincing, but the main idea isn’t.
Midler steams through the outing with sass and charm, eking out laughs on her own merit whenever the script stumbles. But Caan, in a role that recalls his pallid backup to Barbra Streisand in Funny Lady, seems pinioned by the script and generally uncomfortable.
1991: Nomination: Best Actress (Bette Midler)