Movie Review: The Music Man (1960)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1962 musical starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones.

Synopsis: A traveling salesman/con man arrives in a small Iowa town in 1912 and attempts to sell the residents musical instruments and uniforms on the pretense he will help them form a band. He quickly gains the town's trust, except for the local librarian and piano teacher, who is convinced he is lying to her and everyone else.

Not One of Our Favorites

My oldest daughter and I had an opportunity to watch another movie together yesterday evening and, even though it was tempting to watch another monster film with her, I decided, instead, to watch a musical. And, since I hadn't seen "The Music Man" before, I figured it would be a good first time experience for both of us. Unfortunately, while the movie definitely wasn't the worst film we've watched together, this wasn't one of our favorites either.

As far as the overall plot goes, I honestly was a little surprised by the movie. I liked the idea of the main star (Preston) being a con man because it did make the overall story less predictable. He was a likable guy doing a somewhat rotten thing. This meant the movie could have ended in a variety of ways and, since I hadn't seen it before, I had to watch to find out whether or not he somehow got away with it or decided to confess.

I will also admit, the way he managed to stay one step ahead of the local authorities was also somewhat funny, though the whole barbershop quartet thing did get a little old by the third time he used it.

I think my biggest complaint about this film, ironically, was the large number of song and dance numbers in it. There were just too many, even for a musical and, by about mid-way through the film, it just seemed to drag on as a result, partly because there were times when they seemed to be singing just for the sake of singing rather than performing the song to move the story forward. Even I was starting to get antsy so I'm really surprised my daughter sat long enough to finish the movie.

I think the worst part about that was the songs themselves weren't even as good as we were expecting them to be. Normally, we'll watch a classic musical like this and will be humming at least a half dozen songs afterwards. The only song we even remembered from this film was Hackett's "Shipoopi." And, to be fair, a big part of the reason why we remembered that song was we've seen the animated character Peter Griffin sing it on the show "Family Guy." We even ended up having a short debate about whether the "Family Guy" version was actually better.

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Final Opinion

This is a classic musical so I won't be too harsh when grading it. And, I'm sure there are some people out there who love this movie. However, even though I won't say I hated the film, I just didn't think it was as good as most of the other classic musicals we've watched and, unlike those films, don't see us making any serious effort to watch this one again.

My Grade: C

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Updated: 02/21/2016, StevenHelmer
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