Mary Poppins Returns
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What a movie like this is someone who knows how to keep cheese in check; Robert Iscove is not that someone.
From Nickelodeon, the studio that brought you M. Night's "The Last Airbender" and a film franchise base on annoying internet sensation Fred presents "Spectacular". That sentence alone is an immediate turn off and while "Spectacular" is nowhere as awful as what Nickelodeon has produced in the past. "Spectacular" is a uninspired music film with little effort put into it.
Spectacular is about wannabe rock singer Nikko being convinced to join the choir, in hopes of winning the upcoming competition and obtaining a record deal. That's the whole plot in that summarization which is not enough to carry a film. The plot suffers from having little conflicts and devoid of any substantial subplots. Making room for a cast of undeveloped stock characters and plot points that lead nowhere. One main character is not that important who only serves to create drama and to be a love interest. Worst being the film is about Nikko overcoming odds to reach his dream yet doesn't face any real obstacles. Right from the get go he has an audition for a music producer and when he gets kick out of one his band there is another one he easily gets into. A film where the protagonist has no type of conflict even minor ones is not that interesting or accurately portrays the difficulty of being a professional singer. Despite being in high school I still can't imagine any teenagers wanting to called their band "Spectacular", "Ta-Da", "Glamour Gang", and "Sparkle Factory". I mean this is a bit too unrealistic for me. In my high school we had bands called "420", "Free Beer", "Burger Axe", and my short live band was called "Band". If those band names gave you a laugh that's good for I just provided you more humor than this flick.
So how's the cast? Like Nolan Gerard Funk sings in a song, watching the cast is so boring and typical. Our lead Nolan Funk has charisma, but the material gives him little to work with. He comes off as a slacker who overreacts when something does not go his way. Other cast members either have little screen time and when they are on screen don't do much to leave an impression. There's one almost amusing scene where two choirboy attempt to trash talk, though this being Nickelodeon the dialogue is idiotic. As for the music when it plays on film it create contrivances. Like Nikko would just turn on some recording equipment and music that have no singers would play by sheer luck. There is one instance where a radio just turns on by itself. Also not one musical number goes uninterrupted. Sure some of the songs have lyrics so cheesy it might attract mouses, but I would like to hear the songs without someone talking. Not to forget the laziness of repeating songs for than once. Though I do have a good feeling even Nickelodeon knew how bad their music was that a fictional reviewer criticize the band for their dancing being by the numbers. That's another problem with this clearly having a low budget the dancing choreography has little to do. It's clearly limited with the sets that leave little to the imagination. The pacing too is problematic since I can't recall one moment it remained silent.
The soundtrack (yes, I'm still bashing this) contains ten "original" songs and two cover tracks. I'll talk about the cover tracks first. Both "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor and "Things We Do Love" by 10cc are lyrically the best. Using metaphors get across a simple message and leaving room to decipher them. The composition on the cover tracks are the same to the original songs with a more upbeat chord and inferior vocals. Earlier I did say "original" when it came it to the music. The soundtrack as a whole is lazy and uninspired. Repeating themes one song has already cover. The tracks "Don't Tell Me" and "On Your Way" send the same message and both are too direct in what they say. When a song begins with the verse "Fit in or standout? Not a hard decision" and follows it up with "Just do what you like" it becomes redundant to present options in the beginning with the song continuing to tell people to be themselves. Not a bad a message, but failed to realize their are teenagers who just want to fit in. Even the titles of the songs are bland. I can guarantee you know what the songs "Break My Heart" and "Something To Believe In" are about without having to listen to them. Also, why is a song about breaking hearts listed earlier before "For the First Time", a song about two couple meeting for the first time. In the movie it makes sense, but albums usually list songs in a specific order to tell a story or offer reflection on personal experiences. The one exception on the soundtrack is "Everything Can Change". Like the other "original" tracks it's too simple in delivery its message, but feels the most effort was put into it. Sending a message about taking advantage of the opportunity you're given like listening to better music and watching some good television.
Nickelodeon astonishing lack of effort that went into this is hard to comprehend. We have two filler tracks on this soundtrack about dancing. These two tracks have nothing to say and are the most forgettable on a repetitive soundtrack with songs that sound similar. What this means is Nickelodeon put about 10% percent of effort into their original music. I know their will some users thinking I'm too harsh on something aimed at teenagers but here is my reason. Simply because it's not aimed at me does not mean I should expect any less of it. Pixar films are targeted mostly towards family, but are made in mind that any kind of audience can enjoy it. If I choose to watch a film about talking fish by myself than Pixar did something right. If Nickelodeon made a bland music film aims towards teenager that'll likely forget it existence in a couple of minutes than what makes you think anyone else will enjoy it.
Spectacular is an uninspired teen music film while watchable is entirely forgettable within minutes. Nickelodeon has found success among the teen demographic, though when it comes to quality they have little interest on. With repetitive music that always get interrupted, clearly limited resources on dance choreography, a cast that is given little to work of on, and a thin plot better suited for an episode of sitcom "Spectacular" fails to live up to the title being just your average uninspired music film.
The thing with movies characterized by music and performing arts is that its essence depends largely on the relevance and the timing of its performances in relation to a particular issue in the story. Spectacular! may be underrated and under-appreciated but a deeper analysis of the movie may reveal quite a degree of sense and heart in it lying behind its seeming superficiality. The movie can be summarized through its four songs strategically performed in different parts of the story. For the first song, we are practically introduced to the band singer, Nikko Alexander. Conflicting perspective somehow made it quite a deal for Nikko Alexander. Nothing natural, however, can be hidden for long. Soon, his outlook was discovered and surprisingly appreciated by the choir members. In fact, he started teaching the choir members new dance steps for a change. The second song, we are drawn to the idea that Nikko Alexander finally and officially got hooked into the performing choir as he started introducing new Spectacular traditions. The third song, as in any other group endeavoring to soar, unpleasant things sometimes happen, test of character, difficult choices to be made, truth uncovered during the worst of circumstances, break ups. Good thing is that people are almost always drawn to where their heart is. Realizing that he taught the group something new to believe in and that it's heartless to just abandon and fail them after what they've been through, Nikko Alexander made the most risky decision in his lifetime. The last song is the end credits song. It's practically a good summary and I guess everything that happened in the story already speak for themselves.
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