15 August 2012 | MartinHafer
Innocent family fun.
Jane Powell plays Judy--a kooky teenager who can sing like a bird but who has difficulty picking friends. That's because her best friend, Carol (Elizabeth Taylor) is a rich, meddling, spoiled jerk--yet Judy doesn't seem to recognize this. And throughout the film, Carol does her best to make Judy's life miserable. For no particular reason, Carol drives a wedge between her brother, Oogie, and Judy--who are sweethearts. However, this backfires when Judy ends up with a much handsomer and older man, Stephen (Robert Stack). Now, jealous, Carol is determined to take Stephen for herself. But Stephen is no dummy--he sees that Carol is gorgeous but also lets her know that he can see right through her and her wiles.
In a smaller side story, Judy's father (Wallace Beery) is a nice guy--but a nice guy who is embarrassed that he doesn't know how to dance. With his anniversary coming up, he decides to secretly take dance lessons (with Carmen Miranda) but due to Carol's meddling, people begin to think that he and Carmen are in love! SO, Judy decides the best way to fight this is to make her father feel loved--and she and the family lay it on thick. Clearly this is Beery at his best--and he's easy to love (despite his very nasty personality off-screen).
This is the sort of light family musical-comedy that MGM did best. Films like "On Moonlight Bay" and "Meet Me in St. Louis" are just a small sampling of the sort of genre that the studio made to perfection. They also made some non-musicals with similar plots that just can't be beat, such as "Life With Father", the Andy Hardy films and "Cheaper By the Dozen" (the original--not the new crappy version). These films aren't especially deep but are filled with pleasant plots, a bit of minor melodrama, some laughs and, most importantly, nice folks you'd like to meet. My only complaint is that although Powell has a good voice, her high-toned style and high pitch is NOT to my liking. It's far less simple and pleasant than Judy Garland ("Meet Me in St. Louis") or Doris Day ("By the Light of the Silvery Moon" and "On Moonlight Bay"). I am also not a huge Carmen Miranda fan, though when she wasn't singing, she was just fine. Overall, while not a great family musical comedy, it's a good one and well worth your time.