Greetings Manic Fans. Les here to call out actors in musical roles that donâ€™t put the effort in when theyâ€™re â€œperformingâ€ to learn their instruments and perform credibly along with the â€œmusicâ€ theyâ€™re making on the screen. To be fair, not everyone has the knack for playing an instrument, let alone pretending to play an instrument. However, even the worst non-musician can learn the physical moves to at least look correct(See Captain Nemo(James Mason)-Pipe Organ-20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.He credibly performed Bachâ€™s Toccata and Fugue…and that organ didnâ€™t even work!…or Marty McFly(Michael J Fox)-guitar-Back to the Future. He did â€œJohnny B Goodeâ€ and matched the guitar work with incredible authenticity. probably the 2 greatest hand-synchs in film history, but I digress….). And so, here are my 12 worst instrument synchers in films.
Warning: Spoilers and lousy hand work ahead…
12. Nick Rivers-guitar(Val Kilmer-Top Secret!)
Why this is low on the list is simple. The fact that he stops moving his hands and the guitar keeps playing IS the joke. The rest of the time, he did a great job LOL!
11. & 10. Bill & Ted-guitars(Alex Winter & Keanu Reeves-Bill & Tedâ€™s Bogus Journey)
These two are low on the list too, because the filmmakers did some really clever cut scene edits so itâ€™s harder to spot, but neither of them are doing fret work as the sound of KISS guitarist Ace Frehley has trills and licks coming over the soundtrack. I mean, Câ€™MON! Wyld Stallyns is supposed to be the greatest band in history….
9. Darby Oâ€™Gill-fiddle(Albert Sharpe-Darby Oâ€™Gill & The Little People)
This one is also very low on the list, because he bows and works the neck to look like heâ€™s playing the â€œFox Hunt.â€ However, if you look close, you can see his fingering doesnâ€™t match the changes in melody, and is really obvious as they speed up the film to make it seem like heâ€™s playing at lightning speed. A good attempt, but not quite right.
8. Ned Land-guitar(Kirk Douglass-20,000 Leagues Under the Sea)
For most of the song, â€œWhale of a Tale,â€ Kirk does a pretty good job looking like heâ€™s playing the guitar. His strums are in time, his left hand is making chording changes….but then he starts doing these cool guitar flips, where he sends it out and flips it back…and it doesnâ€™t quite match the strums when he does it. Otherwise a perfect hand-synch.
7. Arnold Pointdexter-violin(Timothy Busfield-Revenge of the Nerds)
Iâ€™ll give him credit for bowing correctly in time to the lines done(which, werenâ€™t actually played by a violin, but by a synthesizer, but thatâ€™s a small detail….). Where he fails, is in his left hand, which never changes on the violin neck….the notes would never change if he did this in reality. I mean, really…the line does a 32nd note ascension scale from E4-E5 and his left hand didnâ€™t change once!
6. Susan-guitar(Haley Mills-The Parent Trap)
Hereâ€™s a pretty good example of a typical 1960â€™s film music scene done where itâ€™s so obvious theyâ€™re doing a lip/hand-synch that itâ€™s really lame. Now, I have to give them a little credit since they filmed Haley twice to make her into twins, so thatâ€™s one challenge they had to overcome that wouldâ€™ve made a good synch really hard to do. However, Susan didnâ€™t chord in her fret hand once, so she gets a spot here. Sharon did a far better job playing the piano. THAT was a pretty good synch.
5. Goose-piano(Anthony Edwards-Top Gun)
What makes this one doubly embarrassing is the fact that the camera never shows his hands and you can STILL tell heâ€™s not playing the piano during the â€œGreat Balls of Fireâ€ jam session in the bar. His shoulders arenâ€™t matching the handstrokes and when he lets his girlfriend onto his lap, his hands are nowhere near the keys while the music is still playing. BAD, Goose….BAD!!!
4. Hugo Drax-piano(Michael Lonsdale-Moonraker)
When we first meet Drax, heâ€™s performing a nice piece of classical music on the piano. The camera does a slow pan around his back to show his hands working the tune out and then keeps panning to show his face. Itâ€™s a poor hand synch as his right hand isnâ€™t even pressing keys down for the first 3 bars of music, but the right hand is playing a melody in the soundtrack. After that, his hands match the music, but for that brief lapse, Iâ€™m docking him major points.
3. The Bushwood Orchestra-Big Band(The Bushwood Orchestra-Caddyshack)
This one is just plain ridiculous. A stage band with a piano, acoustic bass, clarinet, horn section and a drum playing easy listening Jazz(Moonglow is the first song we hear them doing…). However, after Al Czervik(Rodney Dangerfield) tips them to play something hot, they break into â€œBoogie Wonderlandâ€ by Earth Wind and Fire(The actual recording BY Earth Wind and Fire…). Firstly, they donâ€™t have the right instruments to produce that song as played. They lack electric piano, electric guitar and, for a really inexplicable reason, SINGERS!….Plus, even with the horn section, it doesnâ€™t look like theyâ€™re playing whatâ€™s coming through the soundtrack. Major FAIL!
2. The Balladeers-banjos(Nat â€œKingâ€ Cole and â€œStubby” Kaye-Cat Ballou)
This one floors me…as both these gentlemen are well established singers/players. Perhaps banjo just wasnâ€™t one of their instruments, but in the opening song for the film the two traveling balladeers are laying out the plot in song and strumming banjos. The problem is theyâ€™re not moving their chording hands while the chords are changing and in some parts, theyâ€™re not strumming together, either. Itâ€™s just sloppy work that couldâ€™ve been done well with a little effort.
And the #1 worst instrument syncher in history is…
1. Sam-piano(Dooley Wilson-Casablanca)
(this clip shows him just pressing his hands down on the keys without playing them….and thatâ€™s not the worst….put the film on and see what he did with â€œIt had to be you/shineâ€-that clip doesnâ€™t exist on Youtube, unfortunately….)
Hands down, the worst offender of this list, which is doubly bad considering Sam is supposedly the best piano performer in Casablanca. I swear, he didnâ€™t even try…heâ€™s a great singer, donâ€™t get me wrong, but there are numerous instances in the film where his hands clearly donâ€™t match or arenâ€™t even near the keys when the music is going. When Rick(Humphrey Bogart) said, â€œPlay it again,â€ what he shouldâ€™ve said is â€œPlay it the first time!â€
And thatâ€™s my Top 12 worst instrument synchers in film history. Did I miss anyone you noticed that, clearly wasnâ€™t trying, either? Iâ€™d love to know more, my friends. Peace.