A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
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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?
Let’s start with the complaints: Though the Broadway version does somewhat hint at its age, this one outright 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.
Talk to your kids 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?
For kids who love musicals
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