Finian's Rainbow (1968)

Genres - Musical  |   Sub-Genres - Musical Comedy, Musical Fantasy  |   Release Date - Oct 9, 1968 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 141 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - G
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While Finian's Rainbow is something of a disappointment given the quality of the original source material and the talent assembled for the screen translation of same, it's hardly the disaster it has often been rumored to be. For one thing, the score is a dazzler, with some of the most infectious melodies and playful lyrics ever created for one project; even the '60s pop arrangements given them can't dilute their power and beauty. The film also has a lovely, muted palette, unusual for big musicals that generally go for huge splashes of vivid hues. And, of course, there's always Fred Astaire, who is always engaging -- even though not really well cast, for who could ever believe Astaire was a poor Irishman of peasant stock? Petula Clark is lovely and winning, and Barbara Hancock is a delight. True, Don Francks has neither the voice nor the charisma for his role, and Tommy Steele overplays terribly, but neither one is really damaging. The bigger problems are in the screenplay and the directing. The writers have not blended the whimsical, the satirical, and the serious as well as they did on-stage, and the last quarter of the film gets bogged down in a witchcraft sequence that simply doesn't work. In addition, the racial tolerance message comes across as simplistic and a bit heavy-handed. For his part, Francis Ford Coppola hasn't found a way to reconcile the various moods of the piece. He also allows too much "staginess" to be kept intact (such as Og's "stealthy tree" entrance), but more importantly, he doesn't, at this point, have a real feel for musical numbers. Some of them have great isolated moments, but they lack impact, and he is entirely too concerned with having a number move through time and space when it may be better served by confining it.