RottenTomatoes.com is a website that shows you the reviews of dozens of critics to help you decide whether a movie is worth watching. If 60% of the critics wrote a positive review, the movie is certified “Fresh.” If less than 60% liked the film, it is condemned as “Rotten.”
No less than 100% of the critics gave a positive review to “Singin’ in the Rain.”
Well, then. I guess it is my solemn duty to give it a bad review.
“Singin’ in the Rain” is not a great film. It is the Frankenstein’s Monster of musicals, with a bunch of previously used songs from the MGM catalog sewn together. Sometimes it works; sometimes it’s disjointed and uninspired.
The story takes place in 1927. We meet Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly). He’s a star of the silent screen. He’s a happy Hollywood dude. He even has his best friend Cosmo Brown with him.
What Don doesn’t have is love. He has a phony tabloid relationship with leading lady Lina Lamont. Lina thinks that they are a real couple; Don is looking for more.
Things get real tough for poor Lina Lamont (not that sexist writer/director Gene Kelly cares about her perspective). First, “The Jazz Singer” comes out and suddenly every studio is making talkies. Second, her phony boyfriend Don is falling for another woman.
Tragically for Lina, she has a grating New York accent. The new world of talkies will not be kind to her. Don’s new girlfriend Kathy (Debbie Reynolds), in contrast, is a talented singer and dancer and ready to take Lina’s place.
“Singin’ in the Rain” has some delightful musical numbers, no doubt. Don and Cosmo’s Vaudeville violin routine is amazing. The optimistic song “Good Morning” put a smile on my face.
But there are weak songs, too.
Cosmo’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” is a frantic bit of unfunny slapstick.
The 13-minute “Broadway Melody” movie within a movie within a movie dream sequence is a disaster. By itself, this dance-ception is moderately entertaining. But it clearly is tacked on and it has no connection to the rest of the film. It derails the story right in the middle of the final act, robbing the big Lina vs. Kathy showdown of immediacy and suspense.
The famous title track is overrated. They say that Gene Kelly demonstrates unbridled joy. I don’t see it. If Debbie Reynolds had just kissed me goodnight like that, I am confident that I would look more ebullient than Mr. Kelly does in that scene.
And that brings me to the biggest problem I have with the film: Gene Kelly’s attitude.
Gene Kelly was undeniably talented and handsome. But he was also a phony. Don Lockwood has a huge, toothy smirk on his face but Mr. Kelly doesn’t look happy. It reminds me of the hammy grin Bill Cosby showed us when he was acting. It plainly hid a serious side, even a dark side. We just didn’t know how dark.
I’m not saying that Mr. Kelly was a Cosby-esque monster. But I was so troubled by his phony smile that I Googled Gene Kelly and learned that he was, in fact, a notorious jerk on set. He bullied Debbie Reynolds into sobbing fits because he was so demanding and unsupportive.
Again, I am quite alone in questioning this movie’s greatness. The American Film Institute lists “Singin’ in the Rain” in the top 10 films of all time, right next to “Citizen Kane” and “Casablanca.” Well, I don’t get it.