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Let It Shine DVD Review

Let It Shine DVD + Digital Copy cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Let It Shine
Movie & DVD Details

Director: Paul Hoen / Writers: Eric Daniel (story & teleplay), Don D. Scott (teleplay), Edmond Rostand (play Cyrano de Bergerac - uncredited)

Cast: Tyler James Williams (Cyrus DeBarge/Truth), Coco Jones (Roxanne "Roxie" Andrews), Trevor Jackson ("Kool" Kris/"Truth"), Brandon Mychal Smith (Lord of Da Bling), Dawnn Lewis (Gail DeBarge), Alex Dιsert (Levi), Nicole Sullivan (Lyla), Courtney B. Vance (Pastor Jacob DeBarge), Jasmine Burke (Ebony "Eb" Wright), Tamara Arias (Florida "Flo" Ortiz), Algee Smith (Da Boss), Demetrius Bridges (Music Video Director), Shay Roundtree (Host), Hans Daniels (Phantom), Courtney Gray (Revelation)

Original Air Date: June 15, 2012 / Running Time: 104 Minutes (Extended Edition) / Rating: TV-G

Songs: "(Make a) Joyful Noise", "Tonight's the Night", "Self Defeat", "Don't Run Away", "What I Said", "You Belong to Me", "Precious Lord", "Guardian Angel", "Around the Block", "Good to Be Home", "Who I'm Gonna Be", "Me and You", "Moment of Truth", "Let It Shine"

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Hi-Def Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Surround 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned; Extras Not Captioned
DVD Release Date: August 7, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $26.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9) / Black Keepcase in Embossed Holographic Cardboard Slipcover

Buy Let It Shine on DVD from Amazon.com / Buy the Let It Shine soundtrack: MP3 Download • CD

Since High School Musical, music has been a standard feature of Disney Channel Original Movies, driving everything from Camp Rock to Lemonade Mouth with soundtrack considerations front and center.
Let It Shine is noteworthy for being essentially the first time in recent years that the music of a DCOM could be classified as anything other than pop. This 2012 production embraces hip hop and, to a lesser degree, choir music.

Having long reserved supporting roles for African-Americans (the best friend, the occasional authority figure), Disney Channel here assembles a cast that is nearly entirely black (the only major exception being Nicole Sullivan playing a jaded agent). That design allows this movie to delve into black culture more convincingly, rather than trying to squeeze it into the channel's formulaic mold. With that said, this is far from groundbreaking. Part of that may be due to the use of classic source material, Edmond Rostand's 1897 play Cyrano De Bergerac. Familiar from adaptations and interpretations, including the fairly well-known Steve Martin vehicle Roxanne, the story simplified to its essence is largely void of unpredictability.

Cyrus DeBarge (Tyler James Williams) has the tools and talent for music, but lacks the confidence needed to take credit for his work. Style has trumped singing talent for the flamboyant and popular Roxie (Coco Jones).

The son of an Atlanta pastor, Cyrus DeBarge (Tyler James Williams, "Everybody Hates Chris") directs and sings in the Baptist church's choir and once in a while infuses it with some hip hop flavor. That is not okay with his father Jacob (Courtney B. Vance), who declares it "the Devil's music" and uses his pulpit to preach against it and the "blasphemous" club that encourages it. Unbeknownst to the Pastor, Cyrus has been working at that blasphemous club and developing his burgeoning lyric skills in TV-G-rated rap battles. We get a taste of Cyrus' vast and evident talent as he freestyles some rhymes to put himself down in ways more creative than antagonistic rapper Lord of Da Bling (Brandon Smith, "So Random!") can.

Cyrus' potential big break comes when he pours his heart into a submission for a local contest overseen by his old friend/classmate/crush Roxanne Andrews (Coco Jones), better known as the flamboyant, vocoder-reliant star songstress Roxie. Roxie is impressed by his entry, but mistakenly believes credited artist "Truth" to be Cyrus' handsome, more confident lifelong best friend Kris (Trevor Jackson) who appears alongside him the photo that improbably serves as the song's only identification.

"Kool Kris" is about to set Roxie straight on the submission until he realizes he quite enjoys her attention and the glory that comes with it. The good friend he is, Cyrus reluctantly goes along with that plan, allowing Kris to lip-sync to his vocals as he poses as engineer, singing out of view in shadows and ducking down to avoid notice. Though not especially believable, that is true to Cyrano (minus the big nose), and the lie-based love triangle that ensues is the heart of Let It Shine. As Cyrus shares his feelings with Roxie in song, the unintelligent, uncultured, immature, irresponsible Kris gets Roxie's heart, but only when there are no other girls around.

Cyrus' father, Baptist Pastor Jacob DeBarge (Courtney B. Vance), is a staunch critic of rap music. Lord of Da Bling (Brandon Smith) is no slouch in the insults department, a skill he brings to mean-spirited rap battles.

Meanwhile, Pastor DeBarge's vehement, Bill Cosby-esque disapproval of rap ("turn off the stereo, turn on G-O-D") comes to a head when he discovers that his son has secretly been contributing to the genre. Naturally, the preacher comes around to determine that Cyrus' raps have good Christian values, which his rap battles most certainly do not. And even as Roxie warms to Cyrus and comes to see his gifts, she does not take kindly to discovering the deception surrounding Truth.

On DVD next week, Let It Shine is presented exclusively in an extended edition, which likely runs a good 15 minutes longer than the version broadcast. You can definitely spot a couple of disposable song performances, but on the whole, there is a little more substance to this than the typical light and frothy DCOM.

Watch a clip from Let It Shine:

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though Blu-ray has been tested on a few high-profile efforts, for the time being, Disney Channel Original Movies remain a DVD-only class, especially when Disney themselves handle the release as they do here. Let It Shine's picture quality is exemplary for standard definition of a 2012 television program. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is satisfactory, though a bit dark and mildly hindered by DVD limitations. Devoting nearly half of the disc's space to digital copies tightens those limitations slightly.

Disappointingly, the soundtrack is offered exclusively in Dolby Surround 2.0. Any new production given less than a 5.1-channel presentation warrants some suspicion, but on a movie as driven by music as this one, it's especially unfortunate. The mix is fine by cable television standards, but the musical numbers are far less potent than they could have been.

Truth's notebook lyrics and contest submission CD become covered by stills and clips on the Let It Shine DVD's main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Let It Shine's only bonus feature is a transferrable digital copy, which provides the movie's extended cut
in iTunes format and two Windows Media files of different resolutions.

In the absence of other extras, the DVD should have included the broadcast cut as well with seamless branching. Basic song selection and sing-along features also seem like easy, no-brainer inclusions, yet these too are not offered.

FastPlay-enhanced, the disc opens with a promo for Disney Studio All Access and trailers for Cinderella: Diamond Edition and Frankenweenie. The menu's "Sneak Peeks" listing repeats those and follows them up with ads for Disney Movie Rewards, Disney Parks, Secret of the Wings, "A.N.T. Farm", and "Austin & Ally."

The cool main menu displays clips and stills inside Cyrus' "Truth" notebook while lights flare and music plays.

The standard black keepcase is topped by an embossed, holographic cardboard slipcover. Inside, one finds an ad for the soundtrack and a booklet whose one unique code both nets you Disney Movie Reward points and unlocks the digital copy of your choosing.

Kool Kris (Trevor Jackson) is happy to pretend he's Truth, when the truth is he's not. All's well that ends well as Roxanne (Coco Jones) and Cyrus (Tyler James Williams) let it shine in the film's closing church musical number.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

With its blend of hip hop and Cyrano De Bergerac, Let It Shine thinks slightly outside Disney Channel's overly familiar box. It's not that far from the standard programming and you can still call it formulaic and predictable, but at least it is flavorful, creative, and a tad different from the network's cookie cutter tween girl-oriented romantic comedies. Those in the target age demographic ought to give it a viewing, but this vanilla DVD, offering only an extended cut in standard definition and digital copy formats, doesn't beg to be purchased or regularly revisited.

Buy Let It Shine from Amazon.com: DVD / Soundtrack: MP3 Download • CD

Buy from Amazon.com

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New: Newsies • The Smurfs and the Magic Flute • Home on the Range • Clue
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Reviewed August 3, 2012.



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