Well, I’ll give Bang Bang Baby credit for something: it’s extremely original. At the same time, though, it’s also extremely weird and absurd throughout. This is a sci-fi musical dramedy that takes place in Canada circa early 1960s. The movie stars Jane Levy from the Evil Dead remake along with Justin Chatwin from Showtime’s Shameless and character actor Peter Stormare. Levy plays a lonely teenager named Stepphy, who dreams of becoming a singer, as many girls do. She ends up winning a singing competition that would require her to go to New York City, but her alcoholic dad refuses to let her go. Stepphy’s fate changes though when a musical idol of hers just happens to cross paths with her when his car breaks down just near her home. As if things couldn’t get stranger, a mysterious chemical leak happens that begins to give the townsfolk a series of bizarre mutations.
While the film itself takes place in the 60s, the vibe, look, and sound of the soundtrack feel as if they’re more so from the 50s. The sets, for example, are very nice visual treats for the eyes. However, they give off a feel as if they’re confused about what period they’re trying to represent. It got annoying at times to keep reminding myself that this was supposed to take place around the same time as something like movie/musical Hairspray was set. Speaking of the soundtrack, it’s overall pretty mediocre. There are some songs, particularly the film’s opening number Juniper Lane, that are quite catchy and very well done. Others, though, are not as good and didn’t have quite as much of a flowing rhythm as others did.
The casting choices in the movie are all over the place. On one hand, you have Jane Levy and Peter Stormare giving pretty solid and believable performances as their respected characters. On the other hand, you have Justin Chatwin and David Reale giving mediocre to awful performances. Chatwin seems to be trying too hard to channel his inner Elvis and in trying to do so becomes a very hollow, irritating, and one-dimensional character. Granted it seemed like that was the filmmaker’s intentions with this character, but the way he was executed was rather poor. As for Reale, I guess you can say he’s the film’s main antagonist. It’s one thing for a character to be menacing and unlikable, but if you have your villain be so irritatingly annoying that you’re not given the chance to be genuinely afraid of him or even have him be something of an interesting character, then there’s a problem. Every time Reale was on screen my insides twisted and I had a couple of minor headaches merely because of his presence in the movie. Chatwin is a talented actor, and I’m sure Reale is too, but here they do not deliver enjoyable performances whatsoever.
As an aspiring filmmaker, it hurts to bash on a film from a first-time feature director/writer. It hurts even more because I could see so much passion that went into making this movie. It’s very clear from watching this movie that writer/director Jeffrey St. Jules loved what he was making and created this from a place of true energy and imagination. In fact, it was because of this passion I saw that I even gave Bang Bang Baby a second watch, something I rarely do for newer-released films. That second viewing only made me dislike what I saw even more, sadly.
If this was supposed to be a comedy at parts, I never laughed. If this was supposed to be a drama where the audience is meant to sympathize with the characters, I never felt so much as a twinkle of that until the film’s third act. The ideas and concepts featured are interesting ones, but, unfortunately, they all just felt like an odd mixture of things that never fully meshed together to make something good or great. Bang Bang Baby may appeal to a select few people out there. After all, it did win the “Best Canadian First Feature Film” award at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Unfortunately for this writer here, the movie didn’t connect or become something more than a bunch of cool ideas/concepts. If you’re a fan of fresh and original material, I’d honestly say give this a watch merely because of how much creativity went into it. As a movie-lover, though, I can’t say that this is a good movie worth your time, unfortunately.