Tuned In: 'Let It Shine' puts new sheen on two old familiar tales
In "Let It Shine," Tyler James Williams portrays Cyrus DeBarge, an aspiring musician with a gift for rhyme who can't tell longtime crush Roxie, played by Coco Jones, how he feels.
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There's a whole lot of "Cyrano de Bergerac" and a little bit of "Footloose" in Disney Channel's "Let It Shine" (8 tonight), an enjoyably upbeat TV movie set in the worlds of hip-hop, rap and gospel music.
The story will be familiar to parents but some of the music -- particularly the showstopper finale -- will keep even jaded adults' toes tapping.
Set in Atlanta where teenager Cyrus DeBarge (Tyler James Williams, "Everybody Hates Chris") serves as a church musician in the same congregation where his father (Courtney B. Vance, "FlashForward") is the preacher, "Let It Shine" revolves around two major plots.
The first involves Cyrus and best friend Kris (Trevor Jackson, "Eureka"), who enter a music writing contest and are chosen as winners by music star Roxie (Coco Jones). Cyrus wrote the song, but Roxie assumes the hipper Chris was the writer; initially Cyrus does nothing to correct her misimpression.
The second plot involves Cyrus' conflict with his preacher father, who rails against rap music (shades of "Footloose") and doesn't know about Cyrus' love of music or his work at a club that hosts rap contests.
Much of the plot plays out predictably -- eventually misunderstandings and conflicts get cleared up -- but there's a decent amount of music along the way, enough to keep younger viewers, at least, tuned in. And then there's the rousing, infectious final number in the film that sends viewers off on an uplifting note. (Yes, a "Let It Shine" soundtrack is already available.)
As for the Cyrano aspect of the story, producers opted not to give Cyrus a large nose and allow his own insecurity and lack of self-confidence to stand on their own.
"He is a good-looking guy," acknowledged "Let It Shine" director Paul Hoen at a January Disney Channel press conference in Pasadena, Calif. "But I tell you that a good actor brings all that vulnerability to the part. And he absolutely did."
Entertainment industry executives love what they call "pre-sold titles," entertainment that's familiar. Surely that's the only reason for "Blue Lagoon: The Awakening" (8 p.m. Saturday, Lifetime) to exist. It's tough to imagine anyone was actually clamoring for a reboot of the 1980 film about young love in paradise that starred Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins that was already sequelized in the 1991 big-screen bomb "Return to the Blue Lagoon," starring Milla Jovovich.
And "Blue Lagoon: The Awakening" feels out of place on Lifetime. Perhaps it's a bid to draw a younger audience, but the TV movie seems like the slightly racier version of a movie you'd see on ABC Family.
The general plot of this "Blue Lagoon" is roughly the same as the old one: Teen couple get lost at sea and land on a deserted island where they must make a life for themselves, which eventually leads to sex on the beach.
Emma (Indiana Evans) is a classic good girl; Dean (Brenton Thwaites) is a brooding loner who catches her eye. The two go on a school trip to build houses in Trinidad. Their first night there they sneak out for a party boat cruise. Emma falls in the water when police raid the boat; she and Dean end up in a dinghy that's left behind, and then they're lost at sea before washing up on a tropical island.
At first the two are at odds. He derisively calls her "prom queen"; she resists his slacker instincts to enjoy a lagoon rather than look for a hotel. Turns out there's no hotel to be found, so the two bond, grow close and make love in a particularly unsexy sex scene shot from above with a tree branch obstructing the view in an ineffective attempt to protect the characters' modesty.
The film's ending is particularly weak and nonsensical as it involves an unlikely reunion and standing in the pouring rain while wearing prom attire, something no one does in real life but is somehow used to connote romantic-minded dedication in bad movies.
Original "Blue Lagoon" star Christopher Atkins has a role in "The Awakening" as the teacher leading the trip to Trinidad; Brooke Shields is nowhere to be seen, but I suspect the role of Emma's mom, played by Denise Richards, may have been written with her in mind and Ms. Shields wisely decided to stay as far away as possible from this silly unnecessary remake.
Cooking Channel's out-there series "The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia" (10 p.m. Fridays) will welcome Pittsburgh musicians Phat Man Dee and Tommy Amoeba to the June 22 episode that also features film director John Waters as a guest star.
Phat Man Dee said she met Justin Fornal, who stars as Baron Ambrosia, when he was a film student living in Pittsburgh before he moved to the Bronx and started a podcast that led to "Culinary Adventures."
"Boardwalk Empire" fans take note: the DVD release of season two will not be held until after the premiere of season three this fall, which is what happened to the season one DVD. Last week HBO announced season two is due on DVD on Aug. 28. ... Jeanne Tripplehorn, who played Barb on HBO's "Big Love," will join CBS's "Criminal Minds" as a series regular in the fall, replacing the departed-for-a-second-time Paget Brewster. ... CNN has canceled its 6 p.m. program "John King USA," replacing it with another hour of "The Situation Room." Mr. King will become the network's national campaign correspondent, according to website TVNewser. ... Showtime confirmed this week that the upcoming eighth season of "Weeds" (10 p.m. July 1) will be the show's last. ... MTV and Logo will air a second "It Gets Better" special this fall focusing on the lives of LGBT youth. ... The 10th season of "Project Runway" will step off at 9 p.m. July 19. ... Before Joy Behar anchors a new prime-time show for Current TV this fall, she'll sit in for vacationing "Viewpoint" host Eliot Spitzer on Current the week of June 18 at 8 p.m. ... Discovery has renewed "The Devils Ride" for a second season.
Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about "The Closer," a host's car on Food Network and local TV news. This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "Spartacus," "Hollywood Heights" and "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.
This week's podcast includes conversation about the Tony Awards telecast, the "Mad Men" season finale and the "True Blood" season premiere. Subscribe or listen at post-gazette.com/podcast.
First Published June 15, 2012 12:00 am