Facebook Twitter

QUICK, DICK TRACY, TRY TO FIND REAL MADONNA ON `BREATHLESS’

SHARE QUICK, DICK TRACY, TRY TO FIND REAL MADONNA ON `BREATHLESS’

Calling Dick Tracy! Calling Dick Tracy! Can you read me Tracy?

Tracy: You've got to help us. Something's happened to Madonna - you know, the stylish gamin of the streets . . . the boy toy . . . the glamour girl . . . the '80s pop princess with a message you can dance to?

She's fallen into a time warp, Tracy. That's one possibility. Or, or maybe she's just slipped into some new personality. She's always been a chameleon; her image-shifting unpredictability keeps us guessing all the time.

Now she's turned into some sort of, well - a cartoon!

Madonna plays a supper-club entertainer/mob moll, Breathless Mahoney, in the summer flick about your exploits, Tracy. And, get this: her latest record is called "I'm Breathless." Get it? She's become Breathless Mahoney, Tracy, and judging by the songs on the album, Mahoney's a vampish mix of Jean Harlow, Carmen Miranda, Mae West and - Betty Boop! (Shades of Cyndi Lauper.)

Another thing, Tracy. This movie and the tie-in album are blatantly trying to ape the "Batman" phenomenon of only a summer ago. You're the detective - get a load of these clues: The film's based on a comic strip and set in an exaggerated urban fantasy world broadly similar to our own. A major pop star, Madonna, has released an album featuring "music from and inspired by" the movie, as was the case with Prince and "Batman" last year. And, once again, Oingo Boingo wunderkind Danny Elfman has composed the real score, and a musical soundtrack will be forthcoming . . . when the record company gets around to it.

And boy are a lot of record-buying fans going to be surprised by "I'm Breathless," Tracy. Novelty numbers predominate, with a sprinkling of ballads. Some songs her legions will adore; several their parents - their grandparents? - will enjoy. These won't necessarily be the same songs.

Three - actually used in the movie - are by Broadway hero Stephen Sondheim. "Sooner or Later" is very much a period piece, with an intimate club feel; "What Can You Lose" is a nice little ballad; and "More" is a show-stopping show tune, with clever wordplay, references to standards like "I've Got Rhythm," and a gold-digging theme ideal for material-girl Madonna ("nothing's better than more, more, more"). Not one of the three is a "Send in the Clowns," though.

Madonna sings well most of the way. She's sultry; she's cutesy. She's naughty in "Hanky Panky," which is a shade or two more daring than "Makin' Whoopee." She's nutty in "I'm Going Bananas" (the Miranda takeoff) and the Boop-ish "Cry Baby." But she's merely middling while Mandy Patinkin's vocally intriguingin the duet "What Can You Lose," and both she and Warren Beatty are worthless in the dialogue-spliced mishmash of "Now I'm Following You," Parts I and II.

Really, Tracy: She's Madonna the chart-topping superstar on only a few of the songs, the torchy "Something to Remember," for instance, and especially the No. 1 hit "Vogue," which really seems like an interloper, stylistically speaking, in a collection that owes more to the '30s and '40s (or our pastel-neon memories of the '30s and '40s) than to the '80s and '90s. What'll she follow "Vogue" with? This set, more than any of her other major albums, seems weak in pop hit potential.

Ah, well. When it comes right down to it, don't bother to investigate, Tracy. Madonna's on tour, and she's already exhibiting yet another perplexing persona on stage. Who knows who she'll be by the time she records her next album.