Vroom! Vroom! Ansel Elgort, the cute-as-cute-can-be lead of the cancer romance, The Fault in Our Stars, bops around Baby Driver like Saturday Night Fever’s Tony Manero, with his ear buds semi-glued in. You keep expecting a few disco balls to pop into view while the Bee Gees let loose on the soundtrack.
Sadly, no balls. No white suit. And not much of a credible plot in this frenetic crime/coming-of-age hybrid.
What we do get is a rhythmic youth delivering coffee and pizza, driving getaway cars, caring for a deaf, mute, disabled older gent, and falling in love with Debora (Lily James), a singing waitress, to the throbbing beats of Queen’s "Brighton Rock," The Champs' "Tequila," and Barry White's "Never Never Gonna Give Ya Up." Imagine Derek Hough in Pulp Fiction.
A masterwork??? Some media folks have been raving over Baby Driver weeks before its release date. IndieWire insisted that director Edgar (Shaun of the Dead) Wright was delivering "one of the best movies of the summer." Variety included this romp on its "The Best Films of 2017 (So Far)" list along with Get Out, Split, and the highly deserving Lost in Paris. Only if you bothered to read on could you catch critic Pete Debruge noting, “This unapologetic exercise in style might not be deep.” An understatement. If this venture were a pond, all the minnows would now be floundering about, gasping.
Yet you probably won’t ever be bored, or maybe just momentarily here and there. Remember depth doesn’t always mean entertaining, and shallow can be at times a knee-slapper.
Vroom! Vroom! The Atlanta crime boss here is the passive/aggressive Doc (a standard Kevin Spacey) who’s punishing Baby (Elgort) for stealing his car that had been loaded with some sort of contraband. To make up for his youthful indiscretion, Baby has to drive various crooks to and fro bank and armored truck robberies that Doc sets up . . . or ELSE: "So what’s it going to be? Behind the wheel? Or in a wheelchair?"
Yes, our hero, Baby, who is suffering from tinnitus, pushes full throttle for various gangsters including the lovebirds Darling (Eliza Gonzalez) and Buddy (a dapper John Hamm), plus a quick-on-the-trigger Bats (a constantly mumbling and snarling Jamie Fox). You’ll have to wait for the DVD's subtitles to comprehend all of what Bats is carping about.
Well, all goes rather swimmingly until the corpses start piling up, and Baby falls in love with the aforementioned Debora, who reminds him of his late mother, who was also a singing waitress who served club sandwiches in the very same restaurant. Kismet. So can the lad ever go straight and romp through flowery fields with his sweetheart? He’ll certainly try.
Wright, who's directed such tongue-in-cheek semi-cuties as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Hot Fuzz and who's had an angst-filled relationship with Ant-Man, doesn't take much seriously here. He's a likeable visual stylist with a flair for over the top silliness. If you enjoy fast and furious car chases intermingled with young hopeful amour, Baby Driver will fill up your tank. - Brandon Judell
Mr. Judell has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire.com, the New York Daily News, Soho Style, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi) and John Preston's A Member of the Family (Dutton). He is also a member of the performance/writing group FlashPoint.