Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Director(s): Paul Hoen
Cast: Coco Jones, Trevor Jackson, Tyler James Williams
Common Sense Says: Rousing rap-style musical has family-friendly themes.
Common Sense Rates It:
Parents need to know
Parents need to know that Let It Shine stars familiar faces like Coco Jones (So Random!), Tyler James Williams (Everybody Hates Chris), and Brandon Mychal Smith (So Random!), so chances are your tween will want to watch it. Happily the movie lives up to Disney's straight-laced standards, balancing squeaky-clean content with a clever story that relates the classic Cyrano de Bergerac tale to a modern-day love story rooted in the hip-hop and rap culture. Expect some mild name-calling and put-downs between teens and some rebellious behavior on the part of a teen who has to break a few of his dad's rules to follow his dreams. Families will like the movie's positive messages about self-confidence, friendship, and staying true to yourself, all of which are reflected in the music on the soundtrack that's sure to be heavily marketed as well.
- Families can talk about self-esteem. Tweens: What are some of your favorite qualities about yourself? What issues cause you to look critically at yourself? Do you ever hold yourself to the standards you see from actors or actresses on TV?
- Tweens: Did Let It Shine introduce you to anything new, music-wise? Did you enjoy the music? Are you inclined to want to hear more like it? What types of music do you enjoy most?
- Were you familiar with the stars of this movie before you saw it? If so, did that influence your desire to watch? Do you ever find that what you see on TV influences how much you want certain products?
What's the story?
LET IT SHINE puts a modern twist on the classic Cyrano de Bergerac tale, following aspiring hip-hop artist Cyrus DeBarge (Tyler James Williams), who enters a songwriting contest sponsored by the music label of his childhood friend-turned-singing-star Roxanne "Roxie" Andrews (Coco Jones). But when a mistake names his best friend, Kris McDuffy (Trevor Jackson), as the winner for Cyrus' song, shy Cyrus agrees to let Kris have the spotlight while he stands in the shadows scripting the music. Things get more complicated as Cyrus watches his friend win over fans and woo Roxie with Cyrus' own lyrics and words while he keeps his true identity a secret. But when the truth comes out, Cyrus must conquer his own doubts to accept his recognition and earn Roxie's trust again.
Is it any good?
Disney draws on the talents of experienced TV stars to pull off this non-traditional reworking of Cyrano's tale. Mixing rap, gospel, and hip-hop music and a predominantly African-American cast, Let It Shine honors ethnic and artistic diversity and even works in some evangelical messages from Cyrus' minister dad (Courtney B. Vance). What's more, the story manages to give most of the characters the opportunity to change in ways that show them working through their insecurities and embracing the qualities that make them unique.With strong, pro-social messages and trademark Disney content, this melodic movie is a great choice for families, but be forewarned that that other Disney trademark -- turning music-centered movies into big profits on soundtracks and other merchandising -- is sure to be an issue here, thanks to a camera-friendly cast of established TV personalities. But ultimately that may be a small price to pay for a quality movie the whole family can enjoy.
The Good Stuff
Messages: Several lessons about being true to yourself and confident in your self-worth. Friendship, honesty, and open-mindedness are also points of reference in this story that celebrates conquering fear and connecting with people in new ways. The plot is rooted in rap, hip-hop, and gospel culture, so there are religious undertones as well.
Educational Value: The story might introduce viewers to the hip-hop/rap culture. Positive messages about self-identity and following your dreams.
Role Models: No character is perfect at the start, but each manages to see past the fear or pride that stands in the way of healthy relationships and positive self-esteem and make the changes needed to improve. That said, some of the characters are pretty stereotypical -- including an egotistical rap star and a Bible-pounding evangelical minister who loathes modern music.
What to watch out for
Violence & scariness: A brief scuffle between teens during an argument, and a girl slaps a guy when she realizes he lied to her.
Sexy stuff: Two teens vie for a beautiful girl's attention, but there's nothing physical about the flirtatious exchanges. Occasionally it's said that someone looks "hot."
Language: No cursing, but there's name-calling like "stupid" and "jerk," plus one instance of "butt."
Consumerism: Music plays a big role in this movie, so naturally there's a soundtrack available.
Drinking, drugs & smoking: Not an issue