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The Fantasticks

A less-than-fantastic movie version of the long-running off-Broadway show, this film, directed by Michael Ritchie, was completed in 1995 and sat on the shelf for five years awaiting release. The story is a Romeo and Juliet takeoff, with music: Young lovers Luisa (Jean Louisa Kelly) and Matt (former New Kid on the Block Joey — now Joe — McIntyre) are hiding their romance from their fathers. Little do they know that grumpy old men Bellamy (Joel Grey) and Hucklebee (Brad Sullivan) would love nothing more than to see their children fall in love. Knowing that children seldom do what their parents would like, Bellamy and Henry merely pretend to hate each other when the youngsters are around. Frankly, given that their town appears to have a population of four, their efforts on the children's behalf seem ludicrous: Luisa and Matt are the only boy and girl for miles around, their houses are practically on top of one another and it's clearly only a matter of time before puberty hits and they end up together. In any event, when a carnival rolls into town the story turns into a mystical journey reminiscent of THE WIZARD OF OZ. It seems that Luisa and Matt's long-awaited first kiss wasn't the fantastic experience each had anticipated, so the ever-doting dads seek the help of beguiling carnival con man El Gallo (Jonathon Morris), who adds some desperately needed life to this movie. Much singing and mayhem ensue, along with a kidnapping plot, Luisa's infatuation with El Gallo and poor Matt's journey through a house of horrors. The chaos is furthered by carnies Mortimer (silent magician Teller) and Henry (Bernard Hughes), who attempt to deliver much-needed comic relief. While the cast and songs are top notch, the predictability of the madness makes it pretty clear that this musical shouldn't have left the stage.