Matthew Lickona 2:02 p.m., Sept. 23
Pennies from Heaven
Bold, original, innovative, extraordinary, unprecedented -- these are some of the adjectives we have been programmed to apply to this Depression-period musical. They all do apply, though only to a moderate degree. Make that, on second thought, a minimal degree. The main areas of applicability are (a) the gimmick of exclusively using actual recordings from the period, by artists like Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee, Sam Browne, and Helen Kane, so that the actors mouthing the words on screen never remotely match the voices, sometimes don't even match the sexes, of the singers on the soundtrack; and (b) the extreme nastiness of the musical hero (and the casting of comedian Steve Martin in the role). But even in these areas, as well as in the more well-trod ones, the movie tends to fall a bit flat. With Bernadette Peters, Jessica Harper, and Christopher Walken; directed by Herbert Ross. 1981.