"My wife, who had seen a stage version of "Hair" for the first time only a few weeks before, has just received this package as a gift from a friend in California.
The set is called "American Movie Musicals." All three of the works are undoubtedly American. They are unquestionably movies. And they are musicals. So far, so good. But what earthly relationship do they share? They are hardly three bites from the same metaphorical apple. They are more like individual bites out of three separate species of apple.
"Hair" is a classic example of moviemaking that is too late and dead wrong from beginning to end. The stage version of "Hair" is and always has been intense, revelatory and powerful. Not one of those terms applies to the died-a-borning film that slithered onto the screen so many years later.
"De-Lovely" is a misguided and stagebound film that might well have been a smash as a Broadway review with a running (if weak) plotline. The casting of the lanky, vigorous Kevin Kline as the louche Cole Porter is almost as bizarre as that of Cary Grant in an earlier Porter biopic, "Night and Day." "De-Lovely" features a boatload of songs from what must be regarded as a Golden Age of the American musical, but in curiously distant and tepid performances. When the ghostly voice of Cole Porter singing "You're the Top" is far and away the best performance in the film, you have to admit something has gone wrong.
"A Chorus Line" is better as a movie than the other two, but not by much, and still massively stagebound. It is in some ways the Anti-Golden-Age musical, and not at all by accident.
Overall, this is the Odd Trio of movie musicals, not one of which is worth much more than a very lightly amused smile.