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THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS. Directed und written by Steve Kloves; produced by Paula Weinstein and Mark Rosenberg for Twentieth Century Fox. Starring Jeff Bridges, Michelle Pfeiffer and Beau Bridges. Rated R.


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The Fabulous Baker Boys is one of those "time machine" movies. It looks like the '80's—in fact, style and hipness is quite important to the story. And it sounds like the '80's—with lots of vulgar language.

But it still feels rather like an old movie. It's romantic, with cynical, hard-boiled characters who soften up as the story progresses. And it has the careful, deliberate (some viewers would say slow) pace and depth of character development rarely seen in movies these days.

One reason for Baker Boys' old-fashioned aura is that Jeff Bridges really is an old-fashioned type of movie star. Something about him tells you that he'd have been a star in the '30s or '40s too. Pfeiffer is good, as well, at playing the hard-as-nails type of heroine that frequents the late show.

The sparkling romantic chemistry between these two is evident from their first time on screen together.

And it's played for all it's worth by the script, in spite of the fact that they have only one erotically graphic scene (it is a humdinger, though!).

The title of the movie refers to brothers Frank and Jack Baker's (Beau and Jeff Bridges) two-piano cocktail lounge act. Short on pizzazz and stubbornly sticking with a repertoire of nothing but old standards, the boys find they're getting fewer and fewer gigs.

When they decide to add a girl singer, and when they choose Susie (Pfeiffer), their fortunes make a complete turnaround. And it's not hard to see why. Susie performs the old songs like they were written yesterday, and brings a sexy excitement to what had been a very dull act.

There is a substantial amount of music in Baker Boys, staged with enough wit and artistry to entertain fans of this type of music in the audience. On the other hand, viewers who want to "get on with the story" might become a little impatient.

Jeff Bridges turns in another exceptional performance here. Jack is a complicated character, and not very likeable. But as we gradually learn more about him, he ends up generating a lot of sympathy.

Frank is interesting, too, and so is Susie, but Jack is the main focus and we really get to know him inside out.

November 1, 1989

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