Gregory Hines stars as Maxwell Washington, the son of a famous hoofer, who’s torn between following in his father’s footsteps and continuing a life of crime. This 1989 dance musical, written and directed by Nick Castle, isn’t everything it might have been—the numbers tend to be disappointingly short, often promising more than they deliver—but on the whole it’s a respectable revival of a sadly neglected genre (very nicely shot by David Gribble) with a lot of lively tapping (choreographed by Henry Le Tang and Hines). Among the strong secondary cast are Suzzanne Douglas, Savion Glover, Dick Anthony Williams, “Sandman” Sims, and Bunny Briggs, and there’s an especially enjoyable turn by Sammy Davis Jr. as Max Washington’s mentor Little Mo. 110 min.
The point of director Jimmy Murakami and screenwriter Raymond Briggs’s rather original English animated feature is to get us to think the unthinkable–to imagine the aftereffects of a nuclear holocaust. But rather than force this bitter pill on us, they create a very funny and believable elderly English couple, Jim and Hilda Bloggs. These two are still mired in memories of World War II, but when nuclear war hits they are eager to do all the proper things and to follow the instructions in the government booklets correctly. Rather than stretch this fable out to a global scale, the filmmakers make all their essential points by sticking to this isolated couple in their country cottage, following them step-by-step through the experience. Aided by a realistic style of animation that incorporates some live action, by occasional stylistic changes that allow for more abstraction in some fantasy interludes, and by the expert speaking voices of John Mills and Peggy Ashcroft, the movie succeeds impressively. It’s rare that a cartoon carries the impact of a live-action feature without sacrificing the imaginative freedom of the pen and brush, but this one does–and does so well that we are even persuaded to accept the didactic framework. Comedy and horror intertwine in this domestic, kitchen-sink version of Dr. Strangelove, and our involvement in the two characters keeps us helplessly glued to the screen. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, February 3, 6:00 and 7:30, and Saturday, February 4, 2:00, 443-3737)