Let It Shine lands in the UK with red carpet premiere
Nerdy teen Cyrus can only voice his true feelings for the beautiful Roxy through his friend, who lip-syncs his lyrics and takes over the rap persona Cyrus doesn’t have the confidence to express. Roxy, of course, falls for the depth of meaning in the words, and the inner man, not realising Cyrus is the shy author. Identity confusion abounds with Roxy drawn to the wrong guy. This is the story of Cyrano de Bergerac remade for the hip-hop generation.
This classic setup is an ideal framework upon which to hang teenage insecurities, following your dream and the basic message of being true to yourself. In the end, Cyrus must step up, Roxy must look beyond surface appearance and the friend must give up pretending. A moral tale which could be described as both cheesy and American; where everything turns around as long as you follow your heart, even the crusty disapproving parent. Although “Disneyfied”, the film retains elements of hip-hop edge in language and attitude.
The success of Disney movies often lies in their ability to appeal outside their demographic through sheer exuberance. High School Musical and others may be models of success, but Let It Shine is unlikely to repeat that franchise phenomenon. As a film, the narrative is too rambling to maintain the attention of a pre- and early-teen audience, and overall too sparse in humour. The best thing about the film is the music, with some spine-tingling performances from awesome young voices, and entertaining, energetic rap-battle scenes. The most infectious numbers are the young gospel choir, doing their stuff, shaking the rafters.
It’s hard to guess the age of the characters – they are vague teens, strangely without school or college. It’s a world where teenagers can suddenly become stars, regularly attend both hip-hop club and church, and where rappers never swear: in between the clichés your mind may start wondering how surreal this is.
There’s nothing wrong with painting stereotypes and stories large for a young audience, but with a tighter format and a splattering of humour there would be more appeal for everyone.
Now that Tyler James Williams of Everybody Hates Chris fame has grown up a bit, it is interesting to see his transition – the character Cyrus is similar to his sitcom Chris – a put-upon underdog. He carries the film well, is surprisingly authentic as a rapper and plays a good nerd. And it’s very cheesy.
Photos: Sherinne Abdou
The soundtrack album for Let It Shine is released on 16th July 2012.
Watch the trailer for Let it Shine here: