LET IT SHINE
Friendly Rating: All ages
Safety Rating: Not even any kissing
Quality Rating: Pretty good with a super-talented cast
Special movie airs tonight on the Disney Channel at 8 p.m.
Let It Shine is based on the classic play Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand, but let’s call it very loosely based. Well, you’ve got to figure that the two guys in love with the girl are not going to die in a Disney Channel flick (spoiler alert – they die in the play). But aside from keeping some modern equivalents of the names and a few key elements, the plot has more in common with your average Disney Channel flick than it does the 19th Century French drama.
Cyrus DuBarge (Tyler James Williams) is the son of conservative preacher Jacob (Courtney B. Vance), who is seriously hating on the whole rap thing, based on the gangsta culture and the objectification of women. Problem is, Cyrus loves the form, and can not only write some hot songs, he can rock the whole throw-down thing. He just lacks the confidence to do so. On the other hand, Cyrus’ best friend Kris (Trevor Jackson) is one good-looking kid, but doesn’t quite have Cyrus’ chops in the throw-down or with the girls.
When the guys see that their old classmate, now singing super-star, Roxie (Coco Jones) is having a contest for best new song, Cyrus writes a really nice tune, calls himself Truth, and sends it off with his picture – well, one of both him and Kris together. The song wins and, oops, Roxie thinks that Truth is Kris and Cyrus goes along with it, feeding Kris all his best lines to make it happen.
In the play, there’s the super-romantic balcony scene, where Cyrano feeds Christian a soliloquy to romance Roxanne, but then Cyrano has to take over from the shadows. In the flick, we’ve got a very nice scene in a shadowy recording studio. In the play, there’s lots of swordplay and the famous duel where Cyrano composes a poem as he fights. In the flick, there are rap throw-downs, where the idea is to out-insult each other in rhyme. In the flick, there’s a war. In the flick, there’s a rap competition, Jacob fulminating against rap (and insulting Roxie), Cyrus sneaking out of the house to work at the local club, Roxie and Cyrus getting to know and like each other and a big performance at the end. As in, the usual Disney movie stuff rather than the play.
The biggest weakness in the show is the script, which given Jacob’s issues, feels like it should have been set about 20 years ago rather than present-day. Come on, the whole rap form has been in churches for at least that long – can you say gospel artist Kirk Franklin, for crying out loud?
But this is one of those rare times when the performances trump the weak script. Williams, who we loved as the hapless Chris in Everybody Hates Chris, does a lovely job as the talented, but insecure Cyrus – who knew Williams could rap so well? And while the character is a total ding-a-ling, you have to give Jackson an enormous amount of credit for pulling it off. You’d never know he’s the same kid playing Allison’s super-intelligent son on Eureka.
Overall, the result is a nice turn on the old theme and one would hope interest your kids in the original play. Okay, eventually it might.