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For The Boys Review

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Eddie and Dixie meet in a British aircraft hangar during World War II where the combination of his sleaze and her sauce, wrapped in sufficient yardage of the stars and stripes, set them on the road to fame and fortune as world-famous purveyors of glamour

★★★★★

Bette Midler’s answer to the dilemma of the actress entering middle age — where are the starring roles? — was to co-produce her own picture along with the “All Girl” team of Bonnie Bruckheimer and Margaret South. This must have been partially in the belief that it isn’t just the men who can knock up a no-brain potboiler on which to hang a fat salary cheque, but where Bette Midler goes fatally wrong is not merely in picking a part that requires her to age from her 30s to her 80s, but tragically in not realising that it’s the 30s that will give her the most trouble.

It’s no surprise to find Midler playing Dixie Leonard, the kind of “feisty dame” that strongly appeals to the show-off in every actress. It would be fascinating, however, to discover how many A-list names turned down the part of Eddie Sparks before James Caan finally took it on. Caan is many things — long suffering, for a start — but he is nobody’s idea of a song-and-dance man in the mould of, say, Bob Hope.

After their celebrity rises as a double act in WWII Eddie and Dixie reappear to boost morale in Korea but return once too often for Vietnam. The plot reads like a unholy coupling between an airport novel and the Life Magazine Book Of The 20th Century, lurching painfully in flashback from the McCarthy hearings through the 60s to the present, its purportedly crackling humour aiming low, missing every time and covering its embarrassment by plunging into awe-inspiring displays of sentiment and yet more remarkable feats of cosmetic cladding to give the impression of great age.

Trash melodrama is, of course, nothing new, but at least in the golden days of the studio system somebody would have been around to ensure that a few jokes found their way into the script and to point out that many wars don’t seem to go on for quite as lo