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Parents' Guide to

Shoplifters of the World

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Drugs, sex, smoking, and a gun in '80s-set teen drama.

Movie NR 2021 90 minutes
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A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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Concert documentarian Stephen Kijak switches formats to pay homage to an iconic musical act, but it doesn't feel like he's breaking new ground. Let's look at how it's all been done before: 1) A fictional musical is created by piecing a music act's songs together into a story (Across the Universe, Mamma Mia!); 2) a fictional story is created about an artist's fans that drives them to play their music (Yesterday, Blinded by the Light); or, 3) an act's biography is told through their own music (Rocketman, Bohemian Rhapsody). Shoplifters of the World combines all three of these approaches, albeit with a couple of original twists. Kijak's fictional story is based on real events that supposedly occurred on the day The Smiths announced they were breaking up. So he plays the music of the U.K. band through the eyes of five fans while also inserting Smiths song lyrics into the dialogue and -- yes, there's more -- weaving in interview and concert footage. Kijak's experience in music documentaries suits the project well. While The Smiths were key figures in the musical landscape of the 1980s and did have a passionate fan base, they weren't a hit machine in the United States. Allowing Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr to offer their perpsective thorugh interviews from the era may help some viewers better understand why their music resonated with those who identified as outsiders.

LGBTQ+ teens may also relate to "the boy with the thorn in his side" who's trying to figure out his sexual identity and is fortunate to have friends and a girlfriend who support him. If that's not quite how everyone experienced or remembers the '80s, there's also recognition of the era's toxic masculinity. In fact, the film is a basket of Easter eggs for '80s hounds: The Smiths lore, the range of bands/music tastes, the accurate wardrobe, the authenic hair and makeup. That said, the lingo isn't always spot on -- and The Smiths' poetic lyrics don't necessarily lend themselves to everyday conversation. Shoplifters of the World may not speak to modern teens the way it will to those who were teens in the '80s; you really have to know the music to get the most out of the film. But The Smiths have maintained relevance over the decades, and it's always good for teens to hear that the positivity we put in the world "is a light that never goes out."

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