A mostly pleasant film, Babes on Broadway is one of the MGM musicals starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, directed by Busby Berkeley. Berkeley is known for a certain style of musical that stops the plot to show off a huge group of dancing girls doing synchronized choreography in particular geometric shapes that he liked. This is not one of those musicals. This is a Rooney and Garland film, meaning it is very focused on the story of two charming, fun-loving, musically talented, innocent teenagers who eventually fall in love. Having seen two of their other films, I pretty much knew exactly what to expect. The studio system was especially factory-like at the time, meaning MGM had no problem making the same movie many times with the same cast.
The music is nice overall, and many of the musical numbers are shot absolutely brilliantly with great choreography, but there are numbers in the film that have essentially nothing to do with plot and pretty much just slow down the film. It is difficult for me to determine what I think of Mickey and Judy’s acting since they are portraying teenagers that are nothing like modern teenagers. So while the characters they portray seem unbelievable, they are charming and delightful regardless, with impressive talent shining in just about all of their scenes. Still, the plot does feel recycled from their other films, so by the time it got to the big closing number, I just about decided to skip it since I knew how the movie would end. However, I am glad that I stayed for the end because, to my shock, the finale of the film is a minstrel show on steroids. (They go all the way with Tambo, Bones, and a huge number of dancers in blackface – all of which happens after they have praised Abraham Lincoln for freeing the slaves, so something about this seems inconsistent….) I know that this is from a different time/culture, but regardless, it is really ridiculous and offensive, so don’t bring the kids.
Overall though, the movie is an impressive one, and it would be good for any movie buff or film student to watch the film for its historic value. Also, bonus points for Will Lee.