Baby Driver (2017)

NO-STARS 200x50

Baby Driver is hell on wheels. And I do mean hell.
     Do not follow this vehicle; it’s prone to making sudden stops and turns even if it does always signal beforehand (or wink as we say in the UK, appropriately so).
     If you’re willing to suspend disbelief for two earsplitting hours then you might just enjoy writer/director Edgar Wright’s cacophony of wall-to-wall car chases writ large with floor-to-ceiling selections of hip party tunes, since that’s pretty much all Baby Driver is—screamin’ wheels, burnin’ rubber, and stock car smash-ups orchestrated to the likes of Queen, The Damned, and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. But I wasn’t and I didn’t, because I know Wright to be bigger than this.
     The source of all the tuneage? Our titular Baby—that’s B.A.B.Y. Baby of course—played with adolescent disinterest by Allegiant’s Ansel Elgort, a pair of earbuds forever planted in his golden auricles. Miraculously, he can still parrot back everything he’s supposed to be listening to, like every step of each One Last Heist. He also wears retro sunglasses so he must be cool, right? Baby’s crime boss, Doc, to whom the young pup is interminably indebted, is played by a meanypants Kevin Spacey, who talks in a clipped, arty way to remind us that, while he might be a bad guy, at least he’s a cool bad guy. Apparently Jamie Foxx, who plays an off-kilter crew member called Bats, stayed on set to listen even when he wasn’t required for the scene, so clearly Spacey’s affect wasn’t wasted on everyone.
     Doc reminds Baby that he never uses the same crew twice… and then uses the same crew twice (Foxx, Jon Hamm, and telenovela star Eiza Gonzalez likely wanted more action than just that opening scene). Baby, while youthful, is the best goddamn wheelman in the business, yet the Atlanta police force has little trouble in tailgating his various rides all over The Big Peach and back again. And in all of those car chases there’s only one scene that’s anything approaching original—kinda cool, almost—but it requires the viewer to suspend disbelief even further. Illogic breeds contempt here… unless you’ve already opted to Just Go With It.
     Baby has a hearing-impaired African-American foster father played by CJ Jones—how cool is that!? There is sort of a sweet love thing going on between Baby and Lily James’ Debora (cue T-Rex’s “Debora,” Beck’s “Debra”—you get the idea), who waitresses in the same sad-sack diner in which Baby’s (dead-by-auto) mom used to work, but they have nothing interesting to say to one another. Not one thing.
     Lazy, noisy, and calculated to appeal to fanboys who wonder how their engines feel (ba ba ba ba), Baby Driver is 100% devoid of the wit, charm, and creativity abundant in Wright’s earlier films—the wonderfully entertaining Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, for example, both of which he co-wrote with Spaced’s Simon Pegg. (Even the more recent Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which he didn’t, had its moments.) Perhaps Wright should consider re-employing Pegg for his next project, since the writing in Baby Driver stalls out in the driveway.
     Maybe Wright was listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Baby Driver” one day and, in the absence of anything more substantive, decided to turn it into a fast and furious summer movie hit! With classic tunes! Fast and furious, sure. And if you groove to the likes of the “Harlem Shuffle,” “Tequila,” and Martha & The Vandellas doing their signature “Nowhere to Run,” then why not? But by trying too hard to be cool, Wright comes across as self-satisfyingly smug. And that’s not cool at all.
     I’d have gone to see Baby Driver even if it didn’t have a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, because I like Wright’s work. But I would have been a lot less disappointed.

(c) 2017 David N. Butterworth

20 thoughts on “Baby Driver (2017)

  1. It’s your opinion and all, but I just think that anybody reading your reviews should know that this critic found this film to be so bad it didn’t deserve a star rating, while he gave “La La Land” (critically praised) and “Transformers: The Last Knight” (critically panned) both the same rating: two stars. Likewise, you seem to not understand what a “crew” is, in that a crew refers to a collection/GROUP of people; meaning that invidiuals in said crew can be the same, so long as they’re not all the same. Literally, a quick google search. That’s all you needed to do.

    I’m not going to say you’re wrong (except on the crew bit, because that is, by all means, wrong). I’m not going to say that you should stop reviewing movies. I’m simply going to say that I am beyond happy that I am not you.

    Have a good day!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I found this movie to be awful and a waste of time. The only upside is that there are only a handful of reviewers that felt the same way… if I now pay attention to their reviews I may save myself a couple hours next time.


    • This film made me feel concerned for most of the movie-going population of the world, considering how popular it was. I thought it was was so bad, so desperately trying to be cool that it failed to hold my attention beyond the first 30 mins. I thought it was one of the most over-hyped films I have ever seen. In a word ‘SHIT’


  2. Lol, how does it feel to know that this review is the one that changed this film’s rotten tomatoes score from 100% Fresh to 97% Fresh?

    Does the Emperor have no clothes, or are you just way off on this one?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If one doesn’t like a movie one tends to overplay their dislike and get careless with their criticisms. Here’s just one: “Miraculously, he can still parrot back everything he’s supposed to be listening to.” It was shown that he can read lips from years of practice communicating with his deaf stepfather.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unless he had a photographic memory (which would make “Baby” suited for more gainful employment than pizza-delivery guy) lip-reading AND keeping track of every word from someone’s mouth at the end of a table doesn’t sound very plausible.

      Especially when Baby is shown facing down, focusing on his I-pod tunes. Perhaps, unlike dogs, he can look up even when looking downward?


  4. I do agree with this review. Much appreciated, btw.

    This movie felt too-clever by-half. Instead of being clever in a natural way, it FELT clever by design. Very implausible (even in a Hollywood way) it doesn’t know how to end, and the shift in tones (from implied violence to lurid violence) was jarring in a way Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” most certainly wasn’t.

    Good to see someone noticed Doc’s using the same crew more often than once. One of the many inconsistencies in this (two drug-heads parked in a Challenger, bad part of town, NO weapons handy…anyone want a bridge in Brooklyn?)

    And where was this “killer soundtrack” I’d read so much about? The only surprise I heard was not hearing “Drive” by The Cars. Are we sure this was an Edgar Wright film, or was he forced to make it “more American?” Compared to his Pegg/Frost trilogy of films, or especially the brilliant “Spaced” series this was disappointingly over-familiar and quite over-hyped.


    • “Good to see someone noticed Doc’s using the same crew more often than once.”

      Not the *exact* same crew, which were his actual words. Jon Bernthal was in the first heist and Jamie Foxx was in the third (final) heist.


  5. Thank you!!! I knew I wasn’t crazy. Your review hit the “nail on the head.” This movie was waaay over-hyped. Everything was either too choreographed or too cliche for me to be interested in it. It just felt like a corporate product (or a parody) rather than a cohesive, organic story. In fact some of the character decisions in the final act were so bizarre it felt as if the studio stepped in to make last minute changes. I did not understand Hamm’s character, Buddy, being the main antagonist at all other than as a lame attempt to make the film seem less predictable. In the end the payoff was just not there. Buddy was the only character that actually seemed to bond with him over his love of music.


  6. This is less a review and more a frothing rant of an angry, cynical and possibly, physically Ill man. This article ( the ten or so lines I read) displayed characteristics of bitterness that comes from years of constipation, that takes the color out of your life and makes you hate everything around you, especially younger, healthier individuals.

    Stop writing these rants and focus on your health…


  7. I’m not going to echo your every disparaging word, but yeah…Show me a movie paper-mache’d with burning rubber, ammo and a thumping soundtrack and I’ll show you a flick that’s trying to compensate for a crippled plot. Not that that’s a bad thing…I quite enjoy a raucous thrill ride. This just ain’t one. Baby Driver can’t figure out if it’s a quirky action thriller…or just a violent, sappy and stupid leap from reality. I’m thinking 75 – 85% is the sweet spot for where this flick should’ve been rated. Get any more gratuitous than that and you’re either getting a check from the studio or just penciling in your I.Q. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


  8. I find it hard to believe that you went into this movie with an open mind. Your entire review seems like you have a problem with Edgar Wright and how he chose to make this film. Also, you like to point out how incredibly improbable any of the events are and how ridiculous the characters act. It’s a bit like you have a personal agenda to destroy this movie in any way possible. I myself am not a fan of movies that are super whimsical, but you yourself gave the newest Transformers movie a 2 out of 4 when it was quite clearly an attempt to make more money out of a franchise that should have died years ago. Transformers had no plot of substance and was a typical Michael Bay action movie with lens flares and explosions. On top of that terrible review, you give Wonder Woman a 2.5 out of 4. Which is practically an insult to the movie, and gives me the impression that anything that you find remotely unrealistic in a movie you mark off as being bad. Now it is slightly reasonable to mark a movie higher than it may deserve if you personally liked it (Transformers,) or lower if you dislike it (Wonder Woman;) but it seems as if this specific movie you never even attempted to look at from any viewpoint than negative. Cliche in a movie such as this doesn’t have to be a bad thing.


  9. I’ll be buying several copies of your book, Celluloid Friends: Cinematic Quakers, Real and Imagined (1922–2012). Great author!


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