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Wacky Canadian sci-fi flick creates its own strange vibe

Bang Bang Baby. Written and directed by Jeffrey St. Jules. Starring Jane Levy, Justin Chatwin and Peter Stormare.
Bang Bang Baby
Jane Levy stars in Jeffrey St. Jules’ Bang Bang Baby.

Bang Bang Baby. Written and directed by Jeffrey St. Jules. Starring Jane Levy, Justin Chatwin and Peter Stormare. Rating: 8 (out of 10)

Mutants, musical numbers and a roadkill beaver supper: welcome to the wacky world of Nova Scotia-born filmmaker Jeffrey St. Jules.

After developing the film through the Cannes Film Festival Residence program and playing to rave reviews on the festival circuit (picking up the Claude Jutra award at the Canadian Screen Awards) St. Jules's unique brand of Canadian weirdness is opening nationwide today.

Not much is happening in Lonely Arms, Canada, in the 1960s. Stepphy (Evil Dead's Jane Levy) is desperate to flee her small town; she spends her days mooning over television

singing sensation Bobby Shore (Justin Chatwin, Shameless) and working in her dad's auto shop. Stepphy believes she could be a vocal star too, if only she had the pluck to leave her needy, alcoholic father (Peter Stormare) and head south of the border, where real dreams are made.

Dreams: "they never do come true, best not to have 'em," says local farmer/moonshiner Gord (Boyd Banks) whose own fantasy of becoming a hand model were dashed as a young man in New York City.

Stepphy has no friends and few options, save settling down with Fabian (David Reale, Suits) the earnest but creepy manager of the town's chemical plant, which dominates the town.

But fate intervenes, as it always does, and Bobby Shore and his perpetually piqued agent Helmut (Kristian Bruun) find themselves in "Canaduh" instead of Kansas, thanks to a wrong turn.

Car trouble necessitates that Bobby bunk up at Stepphy's house, so dreams really do come true after all. First meal served is that roadkill beaver, of course, nonetheless Bobby finds everything about Lonely Arms pretty quaint. As Stepphy plots a USA escape, Bobby seems less and less anxious to return stateside, and to the real world.

Automation has not been the godsend that the chemical plant was looking for, and complicating Stepphy's starstruck plans is the icky purple mist now emanating from the chemical factory and lingering throughout town, a development which is even scarier than Fabian's unwanted, groping attentions. In one of the film's catchy, bizzarro musical numbers Fabian warns that "in a quarantined town of freaks, choices are few". But Stepphy is too busy orchestrating a life with Bobby to take even the most dire warning signs seriously.

The film is zany and full of surprises (who knew Peter Stormare could sing?) and the camera loves Levy, who is the lynchpin in the whole affair. Writerdirector St-Jules skewers '60s morality - the perils of drinking alcohol, sex outside of marriage, confined roles for women - in a playful, ridiculous way, making sock-hopmutant-musical Bang Bang Baby an ideal summer blockbuster tonic.

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