The Fantasticks

5.51 h 26 min2000PG
Two scheming neighboring fathers who attempt to spark a romance between their children by faking a feud in this big screen production of the longest-running stage production of any kind in American theatre history.
Barnard HughesBrad SullivanJean Louisa Kelly
ComedyFantasyArts, Entertainment, and Culture
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Joe McIntyreJoel GreyJonathon Morris
Tim HealeyTerry MillerLinne RadminMichael RitchieArt Schaeffer
Deep Cuts
PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
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4.2 out of 5 stars

214 global ratings

  1. 61% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 17% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 10% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 6% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 6% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

David M. IceReviewed in the United States on December 9, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
An enjoyable, well done attempt to film an "unfilmable" musical
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Speaking as both a filmmaker with over 65 feature film credits AND as a professional harpist (the original orchestration for THE FANTASTICKS consists of harp and piano) I think this is the best possible adaptation that could have been done to bring the musical play to the screen. The play itself is filled with asides to the audience, breaking the "4th wall" and performed on a minimalist set, where a stick stands in for a wall....and a cardboard moon! To translate such a "suspension of disbelief" that characters would sing/talk/dance this way in such a peculiar environment to the screen would seem almost impossible....but Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt adapted their classic play into a real-world screenplay--albeit a "real world" that is still fanciful and at right angles to the world the rest of us live in. My only complaint, as a filmmaker, is that at times the low budget shows.....just one more fog machine for "Round and Round" would have been worth every penny! But given the limited budget, the film is nonetheless a handsome effort with beautiful location Panavision photography. The acting is great, and again the HIGHLY adapted script opens up the action and works in a filmic setting. As a veteran of performing dozens of productions of this musical on stage, it was very startling to hear totally new dialogue (indeed, few lines from the original remain!) but these changes were needed and well thought out. It's not a perfect musical, but it is a very good attempt at filming what others would have considered "unfilmable." Another plus is that many numbers are sung "live" as opposed to lip sync to avoid the "playback syndrome" where audio/vocal quality suddenly shifts from location sound to studio recording. And Jonathan Tunick's superb orchestrations open up the piano/harp original to a full orchestra are a delight to listen to. And the orchestra tracks are isolated on the blue ray as an audio extra. And as a musician, it's almost a course in orchestration for me, knowing the original as well as I do.
10 people found this helpful
Dan FlicksteinReviewed in the United States on May 4, 2014
3.0 out of 5 stars
My Favorie Play, not My Favorite Movie
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A simple setting in an intimate theater is perfect for "The Fantasticks." This movie adds a literal circus, which has come to town nearby the rural homes of the main characters. I much prefer no circus, leaving El Gallo's persona to the imagination, rather than having him be some literal creature of human form. I see him as nature overlooking the callow, helping to mature natural naivete. And who on earth cast the actor in the role of El Gallo? He is weak vocally and not nearly handsome enough to attract Luisa. He might just as well have been Matt as El Gallo. Joel Grey, who is given top billing, likely because of the fame he garnered after his brilliant portrayal of the MC in "Cabaret," provides a lackluster, very disappointing portrayal of the girl's father. The rest of the cast is more than satisfactory, in particular, "the girl." Songs are deleted too. Fortunately, they can be viewed in the specials after the movie finishes. I am not unhappy about purchasing this production, but I am disappointed. In 1979 I directed a high school production of "The Fantasticks" in Brooklyn. I am a modest man, but my performers were, one and all ((even my pianist - my "one-woman orchestra"), better than those cast in this movie, including Joel Grey. Yet, once again, I am not unhappy about adding this film to my film library. Although the director did his best to destroy the simplicity of the plot and its meaning, he failed to do it completely, and what is left are the wonderful sounds of the original music and some good performances, which I did enjoy.
7 people found this helpful
Jim JrReviewed in the United States on March 10, 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars
Very flawed, yet strangely charming
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After eagerly awating the arrival of the DVD of one of my favorite musicals, I have very mixed emotions about it. I wish I could give it 5 stars, but have to deduct one because of the horrible cutting job done to it. Evidently the director and producers are unaware that there a great number of fans who know the songs and dialogue word for word. Some of the cuts are unbelievable. The "hit" song, "Try To Remember" become a very short version at the very end of the film. Since the whole idea of the show is to remeber emotions and situations, cutting this number really hurts the whole film. (Luckily the full version is on the bonus features of the DVD)One of the biggest clues to the character of El Gallo - the narrator and driving force of the piece - comes at the end of the speech beginning: "There is a curious paradox that no one can explain --"(just prior to the song "They Were You") The final lines of the speech are cut ("I hurt them for that reason, and myself a little bit too.") they made the character a bit more human. It is really a beautifully poetic speech and one of my favorites in the show.

The "Old Actor" and his sidekick, Mortimer, have some of their best scenes cut (again, thanks to the DVD special features, they can still be seen, even though out of context). Teller, who is the usually silent member of the team of Penn and Teller actually speaks in these scenes, but you will only see them in the "special features".

One real plus for the DVD is that the original "Rape" number is included. This is the one that was in the show when it opened 40 years ago and has now been rewritten because of today's standards. Even though it is explained that "rape" is used with the old meaning of "abduction" not the sexual violation of today, people object to the original very funny number. To have it is a definite plus for the DVD.

In the theater, "Fantasticks" is presented very simply on a small platorm with no elaborate scenery. This could not work in a film. The idea of setting parts of the story in a traveling carnival is a good one and works surprisingly well. The whole film has an other world, fantasy feeling that is right for the story. (The carvnival is reminiscent of the one in "Somthing Wicked This Way Comes".) It is probably the only way this musical could have worked as a film.

The performances, with one exception, are excellent. Joel Gray is wonderful as one of the fathers. Contrast this performance with the emcee in "Cabaret" and you will see just how talented this man is. The one exception is a very miscast Jonathon Morris as El Gallo. The part calls for a strong singer and larger than life personality, Morris has a barely adequare singing voice and no charisma to speak of and his English accent is out of place. How the girl would want to go off with him is unbelievable.

All in all, it is worth watching and having but is not as good as it could have been if important parts had not been cut. It would have been helpful if the director, Michael Ritchie, had explained why the cuts were made in his audio track, but he never tells the reasons. Perhaps some day a "special edition" DVD will come out with the full, uncut version.
6 people found this helpful
Valerie A. LordReviewed in the United States on November 25, 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars
hurray, Ritchie...shame on you, Francis F. C.
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At first I bought the VHS. I could tell there were some major "diamonds hidden in the rough" here. So...I went out, bought a DVD player and purchased this as my first ever DVD disc. What a difference!! The deleted songs, scenes, full song versions, and director's voice-over of the entire film is worth the price of the player alone! We catch a glimpse of what might have been had someone other than Coppola (who I WORSHIP!!)had gotten their hands on the editing scissors. The DVD extras restore much of the magic, delicacy, and strength of this classic. While on the VHS, I didn't warm up to the actor playing El Gallo til the 2nd act, in the deleted songs and scenes on the DVD, I saw all of the facets I was missing.We actually see where TRY TO REMEMBER was initially supposed to be introduced. We learn of the location, weather conditions, live singing, etc. There is a three-time recurring policeman role which creates a past-present-future thread to the traveling carnival's purpose. Ritchie truly attempted to preserve the original other-worldliness of this story, and the DVD gives a much clearer glimpse of his very near miss at success. I would love to see the original, flawed film as Ritchie conceived it.
P.S. I recently loaned this to a friend who played Matt in the Sullivan Street production many years ago, and he felt the DVD was lovely, charming and captured the essence of the original. What more can I say?
2 people found this helpful
D. GoldbergReviewed in the United States on February 20, 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars
The charming little musical that tried to be a movie.
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On stage, the Fantasticks is a heartwarming moving wonderful experience about coming of age. It brings tears to the eyes and is joyous. As a movie musical, it tries so the little musical that could... but alas in the end it can't and falls flat. And that is too bad.
The lyrics go,"what once was scenic in the night may seem cynic in the light." Well what was scenic on the stage was cynic on film. On stage the coming of age story is charming.
On film, it is annoying, cloying and dripping with artificial sweetener.
What is sad, is that you find yourself rooting for the film to work--but it tries so hard that it is like a horse that collapes halfway through the race . The director, I believe, gave it his best shot but this is just not movie material.
Giving way to political correctness, they replaced the hilarious "Rape" song with one not nearly as good called "the Abduction." This sets the compromised tone of the movie.
People who have never seen a stage production of this
owe it to themselves to find one and see that and not this hyper artsy fartsy thing that smells up the whole proceeding. But it is a must for people who love the musical as a study as what not to bring to the screen and how not to film a musical.
5 people found this helpful
Paul G. GertenbachReviewed in the United States on March 13, 2021
2.0 out of 5 stars
Some plays should never become movies
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If you saw this theatrical gem live, you likely will not like this movie. I am not sure why the original playwrights even became involved. It is a chopped up mess and attempts to take the intimate set piece of the play and paint it on a broad canvas. It also treats the music in a frivolous manner. If you did NOT ever see it live, I still think you will find it mediocre.
RobertReviewed in the United States on June 25, 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars
Charming, but flawed adaptation of a classic
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The Fantasticks has a unique place in theatre history, being one of the most performed pieces, both in professional and amateur circuits. The simplicity of the story and orchestrations mask the truly philosophical nature of this piece. The challenge of bringing such a unique work to film, then, is to maintain the originals innocence and simplicity while expanding it to the level that can fill a screen. Michael Ritchie, helped along by the the original writer, has managed to do just that, making a piece that is expansive and beautiful, yet siginificantly more simplified that the original. This process was more evolutionary, than revolutionary, however, since the film production bears a tremendous similarity to the author's revised version toured the country starring Robert Goulet as El Gallo. For the Fantastiks purist, however, all is not lost, but available for viewing on the Bonus materials of the DVD. As with most films, looking at these "outtakes" shows how the thought process of editing brings about a better film. I will admit, however, that this film is an aquired taste, and those who have a pre-disposition to hating musicals should avoid it at all costs. I also fault the producers, somewhat, at their selection of Brad Sullivan as Hucklebee -- his portrayal is too gruff to be the father of Doe-eyed Matt and stands in too stark a contrast from the tone of the rest of the characters. Despite this small flaw, I find the film enchanting as ever and it helps to keep in mind that love is sweeter when it is earned.
7 people found this helpful
Pogo's MomReviewed in the United States on May 26, 2021
3.0 out of 5 stars
Not the original version
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I wish this was the original version of a great musical. Omitted several songs and neutered the rape thing. Disappointed.
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