Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Magic, The Pain, and The Itch of Youth Theater

Does anybody remember that odd trend in popular 90s cinema, where a movie would open or close with some inspiring school/kid-ful musical/stage performance? I believe it had something to do with the wild success of Sister Act (or maybe it was just a product of that culture wave?), featuring crowd pleasing musical numbers that managed to evoke this mythical spectatorial joy in which the audience is gratified by the performer's joy in production as well as the simple pleasure of song. It's a manipulative storytelling gesture, because these scenes either come at the gooey introduction of a film or at the height of its narrative catharsis at the end- and don't forget the sweeping shots across the players to swirl these multiple joys in a cinematographic tilt-a-whirl, enciting both inexplicable giddiness and a feeling like one could vomit up a pound or so of cotton candy.
Watch this shit and tell me that you didn't get a whiff of elephant ears at 1.35.

Anyway, at some point this generic scene had a lot of kids dropped in it and was sold as a new uplifting and nauseating moment, the inspirational/magical kiddy show performance!

Ah magic!
Some suit/evil screenwriter/hackneyed took this formulaic moment and crash landed it in the elementary school auditorium. Sappy kiddieshow moments are cerainly nothing new (old musicals abound with this shit), but as any veteran of the forced school production knows, the shit that wound up in these movies couldn't be further from the awkward unprofessional slopfest that makes up some musical reivew based on past presidents of or Halloween chintz.
You may have seen this clip I posted earlier from homo-lite stinkfest The Object of My Affection:


Apart from the overwhelming amount of insincerely sincere sacchrine sentimental trashy terrible overload brought on by the adults (I can forgive Paul Rudd because he's soooo cute and inexiplicably endearing even when he's playing an asshole/obliquely making fun of the gays with his "gay dancing" in this clip), there is a whole load of horse shit going on with the kids on stage. Have you ever seen this many kids excited to sing a song for their obnoxiously supporitve families (who apparently need to learn how to be respectful audience memebers...get a load of those endless cheers)? The answer is no...or if you have you went to some kiddie performance camp. Congrats.
The real tell is that kid who pops up around the 40 second mark, who simply cannot conceal his enthusiasm for the literal choreography.

If this moment were real this kid would be standing there bored as hell or with outward defiance of his forced performance. This is probably a more appropriate image:

Now that we set that record straight, I do have to give them credit for keeping something real- that cute little rodent of a girl who hops out to give her solo, which sends Jennifer Aniston on a joygasm she probably hasn't equaled since that very moment. That girl is totally the annoying chipmunk voiced overachieving performer that eveybody in the class totally hates. She gets the parts with the most lines, she gets to do her dumb solo in the desiree song, and Paul Rudd tooooootally loves her. Most kids hated this kind of girl, not so much out of jealousy (like her mom would have her believe), but because she is super annoying and her infantile voice makes your eardrums want to overdose on muzak to kill the pain it inflicts.

Regardless, I don't think anybody has been to such a disgustingly falsely uplifting kiddie review such as this.

Although I must admit, dear readers, that this bit is nothing...things can get a whole lot worse...a whoooole lot worse....

Ok, so this opening clip from Toys isn't actually a depiction of a school production, but it's basically the creepy uncle to that trend. I guess this is supposed to warm your cold heart for the holiday season, but it just makes me feel inexplicably uncomfortable...The tree singers? The dumb Wendy and Lisa song? The reindeer humping at 1.28? What the hell is going on?!?! This has to be stopped!

Finally I wanted to prove a point that Hollywood would also stir up the laughable fantasy that school productions had enormous budgets to lavish on extravagent sets and lighting, like the performance of Peter Pan at the beginning of the movie Hook, but I cannot find a clip of that scene on youtube. So I'll make it up to you by showing you the most nauseating moment of movie song EVER featured in that movie.

Something tells me this consistently flat breathy nightmare of a pixie might be related to nasaly jumpy pants from the Desiree clip.

So where am I going with this?
Well, an old teacher of mine sent me a DVD of a musical version of Treasure Island that my 8th grade class did. Re-watching this video made me recall all these lousy aformentioned clips, and how in actuality kiddie performances are mostly awkward low budget marathons of generally unenthusiastic youngsters powering through pieces of performance poo.
I'll be throwing together a few videos detailing the uncomfortable product of sticking a bunch of pimply mid-adolescents in pirate outfits and making them sing to a midi back track.
Before I dish out the pain, I decided to make a nice homage both to the stage magic of my youth and this terrible cinematic trend...sort of a heartwarming intro before the embarrassed tears begin to fall.



charlie said...

I think that be Amy Grant atop the living Christmas tree. Theirs was so mediocre. Might I direct you to the gargantuan Living Christmas tree of my home town:
Now that's a mother fuckin' living christmas tree.

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