16 March 2013

Movie Review: "Let It Shine"

Rated: TV-G
Starring: Tyler James Williams, Coco Jones, and Trevor Jackson
Released: June 15, 2012 (Disney Channel premiere) / August 7, 2012 (DVD)
Synopsis: Cyrus DeBarge, a preacher's son, has serious hip-hop skills. Unfortunately, his father detests that genre of music, a local stage rapper makes Cyrus cower in fear, and Cyrus feels he doesn't have the looks or style to make it. When he submits a song to a contest sponsored by big-name artist Roxie, who happens to be a childhood friend, he includes a picture of him with his best buddy Kris. Upon meeting them, Roxie incorrectly believes that Kris is the one with the talent, not Cyrus. Cyrus helps his friend fake it, but will the truth ever come out? Will Cyrus get the recognition he deserves? By film's end, everyone will be in for at least one big surprise...

Story: 5/5
More than just a flimsy "follow your dreams" title, Let It Shine is a morality play.  The consequences of lying are shown.  A father learns to be more involved with his son, much like the protagonist of Courageous.  Being fake in the name of stardom is vilified.  All the while, I was entertained.  To me, that's a good story.

Production Values: 4.5/5
A musical isn't any good without well-produced musical numbers, right? Well, every song in here is great, if not amazing.  The rap battles are outstandingly done; they have to be seen to be believed.  The actors did really well, especially Brandon Mychal Smith as the antagonist, whose character was much different than the one he played in Sonny With a Chance.  The only thing that prevents it from getting a perfect score in this department is the closing, which features annoying outtakes while the credits roll.  You probably would want to push the "skip" button when those come up.

Moral Content: 5/5
No profanity! Zero sexual content, save for an occasional immodest outfit! Hardly anything even resembling violence! No drug use! Seriously, this is one of the cleanest movies I've seen in a while.  Better yet, the Christian faith is portrayed in a positive light! Some parents may quibble with the "rap battles," but the movie shows that they're simply for sport, and they're more innocent than the average "yo momma" joke.

Conclusion: How you would feel about Let It Shine hinges on two questions: Do you like rap music? Are you okay with contemporary Christian music? If you answered yes to both of those question, you would likely enjoy this movie; if hip-hop gives you a headache, and/or you believe the only Christian songs should be sans instruments, then this is not for you.  As someone who can enjoy the occasional rap tune, and as a long-time fan of Christian music, I find this kind of flick right up my alley.  Even those who have avoided previous Disney Channel movies should check this out; they'd likely be surprised, as was I.
A postscript: Some people have largely assumed that Christian faith has no place anywhere in Mickey Mouse Land, including on their cable network.  That's not true; years ago, CCM pop quintet Jump5 made it big on Radio Disney and had a song featured on Lizzie McGuire.  Around the same time, Superchic[k]'s "One Girl Revolution" was used as the theme song for Disney Channel's telefilm Cadet Kelly, which had the highest viewership of any DCOM up to that point.  Later on, the all-female rock trio Everlife also jammed on Radio Disney; I'm sure that very few people would have even guessed that they previously guest starred on ApologetiX's album Adam Up.  Even Wizards of Waverly Place and Camp Rock actress Maria Canals Barrera was featured in two issues of CCM Magazine.  Despite what some would have you believe, you can still find faith in Jesus on the Disney Channel; Let It Shine is perfect proof.

Score: 4.75/5

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