Review: 'Baby Driver'

This getaway ballet is a jumping jukebox thrill ride
The car caper 'Baby Driver' plays like 'La La Land' meets 'Bullet.'

A musical more than a rubber-burner, Baby Driver is the La La Land of caper films, derivative and occasionally fun—take that as praise if you loved La La Land. Writer and director Edgar Wright, of the "Pub Trilogy" (Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz!, End of the World) is clearly angling for the American market, with its views of '50s diners, big old Cadillacs, open roads and nostalgia tunes. Compared to his earlier work, Baby Driver is twice the tropes and half the jokes.

Kevin Spacey is Doc, a criminal mastermind in Atlanta. His lucky charm is an eccentric wheelman who calls himself Baby (Ansel Elgort, made up with small but interesting Miles Teller-style scars on his kissable baby face). When Baby speaks—he doesn't often—the voice is buttery like the shy Elvis, and the plush lips look like The King's; he's the kind of gentleman who calls the lady whose car he just jacked "ma'm." He plugs his ears with headphones, to choreograph his getaways with music.

Having retired from crime, he's courting Debora (Lily James) a gold hearted waitress. But just when Baby is trying to get out, the man pulls him back in. And despite his insistence on clockwork precision, and new crews for every heist, Doc keeps hiring a psycho called Bats (Jamie Foxx). The thug's rage turns all the fun and games into something where people get hurt.

Jon Hamm, wearing Bogart's haircut from High Sierra, gets his first really fine movie part as the gunman Buddy—he has a Honey Bunny and Pumpkin thing going on with his moll "Darling" (Eiza Gonzalez). "Hocus Pocus" by Focus and "Neat Neat Neat" by The Damned back up the show-stopping car chases.

Wright's rhythm and talent shows when he's following Baby carrying a tray of coffees through downtown, a kind of dance. Spacey seems ready to burst into song as he patters out the details of a holdup. The writing goes rococo—a gun merchant called "The Butcher" (Paul Williams) promises "the best prices in Christendom."

Baby Driver is an exercise in style and it goes mawkish at times. Maybe Breathless, too, could be dismissed as an exercise in style, but at least Godard doesn't seem like something that's sometimes malignly influenced by Guy Ritchie.

Baby Driver
R, 113 Mins.

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