Picks and Pans Review: The Idolmaker

updated 12/15/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/15/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

As he proved earlier this year in Willie and Phil, Ray Sharkey has the talent, drive and vitality to carry an entire film on his shoulders. But Atlas himself might stumble under the burden of Edward DiLorenzo's script for The Idolmaker. Based loosely on the life of Bob Marcucci, the hard-nosed South Philly promoter who discovered '50s faves like Frankie Avalon and Fabian, the movie attempts to dramatize the behind-the-scenes Sturm und Drang that turned underaged (and often undertalented) pretty boys into moneymaking music machines. Though Marcucci served as technical adviser and newcomers Peter Gallagher and Paul Land acquit themselves nobly as the pomaded idols, the dialogue is trite. Further, Jeff Barry's original songs have been arranged in too contemporary style; instead of sounding like nostalgically bad old songs they sound like bad new ones. The film's few moments owe largely to director Taylor Hackford's eye for zippy American Bandstand theatrics and to Sharkey's live-wire performance. Whether he's hustling little old ladies (in Italian yet) or standing in the wings pathetically aping the gyrations of his onstage creations, he's mesmerizing. The rest of the movie is as vibrant as two hours of Fabian's Greatest Hits. (PG)

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