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Featured TV on DVD Review: Let It Shine

August 6th, 2012

Let It Shine - Buy from Amazon

Let It Shine aired earlier this year on the Disney Channel and was seen by 5.7 million viewers during its first airing, making it the biggest original movie of the year for the network. Is it also among the best that Disney has made over the years?

The Movie

The film begins in church with Cyrus DeBarge leading the youth choir. It starts out traditionally, but quickly transitions into more of the R&B side of Gospel, and then into Rap, much to the dismay of the pastor, Jacob DeBarge, who is also Cyrus's father. As far as his father is concerned, rap is the devil's music. Later, Cyrus sneaks out of the house to meet his friend, Kris McDuffy (Trevor Jackson), at a club. Cyrus has been supplying the beat for Kris's rap battle, because he's too shy to get on stage himself. Kris loses to Lord of Da Bling while Cyrus is stuck cleaning tables at the club. Even when Lord of Da Bling himself publicly challenges him to a rap battle, Cyrus just walks away. He could probably beat him, but he can't perform in front of crowds like that.

That night, Cyrus and Kris watch Roxie Andrews (Coco Jones) being interviewed on TV. The three were friends in elementary school, but now she's a famous singer. She's there to talk about her new video and to announce a new contest. An amateur songwriter will get a chance to have one of their songs recorded. All they have to do is send in a song, and a recent photo of themselves, and they could win. Both Cyrus and Kris enter the contest, with a little friendly smack talk. Cyrus decides the best way to write the perfect song is to write about something he really cares about, Roxie.

Trying to write the perfect song is the only challenge for Cyrus, as his dad's crusade against rap music intensifies and soon he's trying to get the music banned from the community. Another complication arises when the contest winner is announced. Because he signed his name as, "The Truth" and sent in a picture with both him and Kris, Roxie thinks Kris wrote the winning song. When Kris finds out, he says they have to tell Roxie the truth. However, Cryus knows that Kris thrives in the spotlight and he doesn't and says they should keep this their secret. Of course, that's going to be a hard secret to keep. And this problem is made worse when Roxie start to fall in love with Kris, or to be more accurate, starts to fall in love with the lyrics she thinks he's writing. The problem is, both Cyrus and Kris have feelings for her, so this love triangle threatens to tear their friendship apart and reveal all of their secrets.

As you can tell from the plot summary, this is a modern adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, which is a story that has been told and retold countless times. This does mean the general plot is a little predictable, which is a bit of a problem. There is a bigger problem, Jacob DeBarge. I have nothing against the actor, Courtney B. Vance, who is a great actor. However, the character's attitudes about music are positively archaic. Rap is the devil's music? Really? It was just too hard to swallow in 2012. That would have been hard to swallow in the late 1990s. On the other hand, the three main leads do have a lot of chemistry together and Coco Jones is a really good singer. It is also always fun to see Nicole Sullivan, who played Lyla, Roxie's stylist / manager.

The Extras

The only extra is the extended musical performance, hence the Extended Edition label.

The Verdict

I've seen a lot of Disney Channel Original Movies, and Let It Shine is better than average but not among the best. It doesn't break any new ground and the 'Rap is the Devil's Music' feels very out of place for a film made in 2012, but the central cast is charming enough that it should appeal to its target audiences. Sadly, the DVD has no extras, which hurts its overall value.

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