A Chorus Line

 
Sexy Broadway classic gets disappointing 1980s remake.
  • Review Date: November 27, 2010
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Musical
  • Release Year: 2003
  • Running Time: 113 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A pretty powerful message: What you do, you do for love. And that’s what sustains when the day-to-day grind seems overwhelming and difficult.

Positive role models

Nearly everyone on the cast is a role model in one form or the other: the actress who tasted success but isn’t too proud to go back to her roots; the boy who decided he could dance as well as, or even better than, his sister and isn’t daunted by other people’s expectations; the choreographer who reminds everyone to “be yourself.” Some characters appear somewhat traumatized by their past, but they have found an outlet to set them free: dancing.

Violence
Not applicable
Sex

A whole song talking about what a guy’s “first time” making love was like, and what subsequent couplings were like. Another song mentions “t-ts and ass,” and how a woman is measured primarily by looks and not talent, necessitating breast implants and a nose job so she can trade on her looks. Another song about physical transformations that happen when one is a teenager. A dancer sings about how he learned about sex. Also, some suggestive dance moves.

Language

“Bullsh-t,” “friggin,” “sh-t,” “g-dd-mn,” and the F-word.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this 1985 movie inspired by the long-running, award-winning Broadway musical is filled with the memorable music and characters that made the show the icon it is today. That said, the subject matter—finding one’s sexuality, the toll of dysfunctional families, the drudgery and joy of a chorus member’s life— may go over the heads of tweens and younger. (There are some songs that pertain to bodily changes that happen when one is a teenager.) There’s some swearing, suggestive dancing, and numerous references to sexual awakening and body parts. Some frank discussion of sex, too.

Parents say

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What's the story?

In this cinematic retelling of the Broadway classic, dancers auditioning for a famous choreographer (Michael Douglas) show off their skills. But for the finalists, the dance steps quickly give way to more personal, and affecting, confessions about life: wayward fathers; embarrassing moments; and the hardship of constantly hustling for chorus jobs, among others. In the group is Sheila (Vicki Frederick), a thirtysomething dancer who proves she’s not past her prime; Diana (Yamil Borges), who sings of an acting teacher who made her feel nothing; and Cassie (Alyson Reed), a stage actress who sought Hollywood fame, only to return and start over.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Let’s start with the complaints: Though the Broadway version does somewhat hint at its age, this one outright reveals -- no, screams -- it: the lighting, the leg warmers, the cheesy keyboard and guitar riffs. And it’s not exactly faithful to the original, with flashbacks to bone up one romantic storyline, though it’s close. As for the actors, though they do a fine enough job, especially with the dancing. But one gets the feeling that, with few exceptions, they’d be understudies if they were onstage. There’s little electricity, no momentum. And the show’s signature song, “What I Did for Love” is sadly misused.

Nevertheless, one can’t argue with the brilliance of the show itself, whose basic essence is intact (though some songs, sadly, haven’t been transferred to the screen). The stories of triumphs and failures, of lives perpetually on the brink between stardom and chorus-line anonymity have survived, and, with some major caveats, so has this movie.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the appeal of hearing other people’s troubles and secrets. Many of the characters in the film (and the stage version) reveal personal difficulties. Does it show that one can’t judge a book by the proverbial cover?

  • How does this film compare to other movies inspired by Broadway plays and musicals? Does it do a good job? What are the challenges and payoffs of adapting a stage show?

Movie details

DVD release date:April 15, 2003
Cast:Michael Douglas, Terrence Mann
Director:Richard Attenborough
Studio:MGM/UA
Genre:Musical
Run time:113 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13

This review of A Chorus Line was written by

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Quality

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  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written bymannymateo10isback January 19, 2011
age 13+
 

good movie!

its pretty good, but too many dancing i loved it, but the girls who were dancing dresses inappropriate with bra and panties (not always), and some bad words included i dont really mentioned the fact how everyone on the cast is a role model in one form or the other, so pretty good movie!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Great messages
Kid, 12 years old January 10, 2015
age 10+
 

Mostly good but obviously MGM from the 80s

I first saw A Chorus Line live when I was eleven, and was very excited to receive the movie adaptation for Christmas. I have to say, it was obviously an MGM film from the 80s- cheap budget, and 80s hair and clothes. However, it was still mostly excellent. Mostly- I was disappointed by Diana's performance, as she has always been one of my favorites. However Cassie, Zac? Amazing. My only other problem was they gave What I Did For Love to Cassie, which is a full cast song led by Diana. But it was great. Really.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex

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