A few weeks ago, I was browsing Netflix in search of something short and mindless to watch while I ate dinner, like most people do when faced with the endless possibilities and indecisiveness of Netflix. This particular evening, however, was destined for greatness when it landed me on a little gem of a Disney original movie called Let It Shine, which is a modern retelling of Edmond Rostand’s dramatic take on the life of Cyrano de Bergerac, set against the backdrop of pop hip-hop.
There is no part of that description I disapprove of, so pour yourself a drink and we’ll dive right in.
The film: Let It Shine (2012)
The premise: Young Cyrus is an aspiring rapper and musician held back by his overbearing, anti-hip-hop, reverend father, as well as his own lack of self-confidence. When his former childhood friend turned mega popstar Roxy holds a contest to find the next great rapper, Cyrus enters and wins–but the winning credit mistakenly goes to his friend Kris. The ensuing comedy of mistaken identity has Roxy falling in love with Cyrus’ talent but Kris’ face, while Cyrus struggles with hiding the truth, despite his rapper name being, ironically (and comically), Truth. And it’s a musical. A hip-hop musical. An aggressively mediocre hip-hop musical.
Why you should watch it: Did you watch the trailer? Did you? Did you see what they are wearing? This movie wasn’t made in the 90s. It’s not set in the 90s. It’s got nothing to do with the 90s. And yet.
I realize that Cyrano is pretty obscure material–not a lot of people are familiar with the story, and my familiarity could only be described as “passing”–but just a quick wikipedia summary of the plot turns this film from awkward to hilarious. First of all, the fact that Roxy is his cousin in the original gets completely glossed over. Secondly, the self-esteem problems the build the entire undercurrent of the plot make no goddamn sense in this film because the actor playing Cyrus/Truth is undeniably good-looking. They spend this entire film trying to paint him as physically unattractive, like his namesake with the big nose was, but his actual face completely belies all of that work. It’s like he’s the ultimate girl-before-she-takes-her-glasses-off, except that you never get the make-over moment. People just give up trying to convince you that he’s ugly. Also this movie ends with a lot less death than the original, but then so did The Lion King.
But the real selling point of this film is the dialogue. As it turns out, Disney trying to write “real” dialogue for black people is super uncomfortable in all the most stereotypical ways, and it’s clear that the actors delivering the lines are fighting not to choke on them. I don’t want to spoil the fun by giving them away, but suffice it to say they basically all sound like the part in Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” where she says “THIS SICK BEAT.” Yeah. It’s that awkward.
The drinking game: Drink every time the “real” dialogue makes you cringe.
Bonus: Take a shot every time they say the actual word “real.”
Where it’s available: NETFLIX
“I might be a bus boy, but you just got served!” -Cyrus
P.S. I have to mention, however, that they never once say the word “panache” in this film and it’s a fucking crime.