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A-list stars in ‘Babylon’ The Tinseltown ode is a boisterous, coke-snorting mess with some great moments.

When your ode to old-school Hollywood includes high-velocity elephant diarrhoea, drunken shenanigans, a swath of half-naked people, and mountains of cocaine in the first 30 minutes, it’s hard to go anywhere but down.

Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon” (12 out of four; rated R; in theatres Friday) is a Tinseltown tale of fame, fortune, and coke-snorting excess, with real-life A-listers playing fictional A-listers. At the very least, despite its 189-minute length, it never gets boring.

The film harkens back to the silent filmmaking era of the 1920s – and its revolutionary transition to “talkies” – while slamming you in the face with a series of memorably bonkers episodes, usually involving Margot Robbie valiantly going for broke. Despite a great performance from Brad Pitt, an impressive performance from newcomer Diego Calva, and a slew of entertaining cameos, the madcap comedy-drama eventually runs out of creative crazy juice and descends into cinematic sentimentality.

The film begins in 1926 with an out-of-control (and uninhibited) party in the Southern California hills that introduces the main characters. Manny Torres (Calva) is a Mexican immigrant who solves problems at a drug-and-alcohol-fueled bacchanal. He becomes close to Nellie LaRoy (Robbie), a young actress looking for her big break who dives headfirst into the debauchery, and meets Jack Conrad (Pitt), the highest-grossing leading man in an industry that will soon change dramatically.

Nellie’s wild-child style impresses the right people – she’s described as “a maelstrom of bad taste and sheer magic” by gossip columnist Elinor St. John (Jean Smart), and Jack takes Manny under his wing as the youngster demonstrates a talent for cinematic problem-solving. Manny and Nellie’s paths continue to cross as sound pictures transform the industry and their working lives. However, as they enter the 1930s, difficulties arise as the core trio deals with pride, vices, and relationships.

Robbie’s character is at the heart of “Babylon,” a natural force willing to do anything for fame but at a cost. She and Calva share some of the film’s most poignant emotional moments, as do Pitt and Smart, who have an unforgettable conversation about the ephemeral nature of celebrity.

Robbie rules the most raucous sequences as Nellie loses her cool on set, ruins a fancy-pants shindig, and wrestles a rattlesnake with a mix of physicality and sheer guts. While Pitt has his comedic moments, he also brings a thoughtful nuance to Jack, an icon nearing the end of his career. And Calva is cast as our window into this wild world, though Manny is also a guy who learns that a dream has consequences.

Jovan Adepo plays Sidney Palmer, a Black trumpeter whose star rises alongside Nellie, and Li Jun Li plays Lady Fay Zhu, a lesbian Asian singer/actress who makes silent-movie dialogue cards on the side and has feelings for Nellie. With these roles, Chazelle attempts to examine race and sexuality issues of the time; both deserve larger arcs but receive insufficient screen time.

“Babylon” looks and sounds cool as an unabashed love letter to cinema: In the film’s opening shindig, top-notch production design recaptures the magic of old movie sets and exudes wall-to-wall rowdiness, while Oscar-winning composer Justin Hurwitz (“La La Land”) summons the jazzy melodies and thumping rhythms of the time with a strong score. Real-life period luminaries (including “SNL” regular Chloe Fineman as starlet Marion Davies) appear onscreen alongside main characters based on historical figures, such as Nellie, who was inspired by Clara Bow, and Jack, who is a cross between Clark Gable and Douglas Fairbanks.

“Babylon” pays homage to celluloid classics such as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “A Star Is Born,” and “La Dolce Vita.” But, despite its best efforts, it falls short of the mark.

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