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SECOND OPINION: ‘Baby Driver’ Ain’t All That

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WASHINGTON POST: Nominally, “Baby Driver” takes place in Atlanta, but it really exists in the imaginative world of Edgar Wright, the British filmmaker whose previous films — “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” — brim with equal parts sophomoric humor, boyish kicks and grating self-satisfaction. This often clever but ultimately appalling piece of genre inversion has originality on its side: It’s a Tarantino-esque heist film re-conceived as a jukebox musical. But that novelty soon wears off as it becomes clear that it’s less written than reverse-engineered to live up to its title. It’s about a Driver, whose name is Baby, and who likes to pose and mouth along to retro-hip songs by T. Rex and Martha and the Vandellas. It’s got style and swagger to burn, and some of the set pieces are ingeniously staged, but it panders to the lazy affectations of a generation raised on lip-sync battles and late-night karaoke culture.

Played by Ansel Elgort, who spends most of the movie hiding behind a perpetual scowl and vintage-looking shades, Baby is a getaway driver in the tradition of the Ryans (O’Neal and Gosling), a man-child of few words who, we learn, has been dragooned into service by a criminal ringleader played with hambone brio and bluster by Kevin Spacey. “Baby Driver” belongs to the subgenre of “one more job, then I’m out” crime pictures, whose fascination with violence, depravity and thuggish escapism are offset by a protagonist who’s dutifully reluctant and guilt-stricken. Wright goes out of his way throughout “Baby Driver” to prove the title character’s ethical bona fides: He falls in love with a truehearted diner waitress (Lily James), and when he carjacks an elderly woman, he makes sure to return her purse before tearing off. The butt of merciless jokes from his fellow miscreants (played by Jon Hamm, John Bernthal and Eiza González), Baby uses his ill-gotten gains to take care of his deaf, wheelchair-bound godfather, played by CJ Jones. The virtue signaling is as flamboyant and unsubtle as the production numbers in “Baby Driver,” in which every scene is a set piece of extravagant staging and skintight editing. MORE

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