- by Jeff Beck
Sing Street: A Great Soundtrack Saves an Overly-Familiar Story (Blu-ray)
Writer/Director John Carney has been making films for the past 20 years, and yet it wasn’t until his big hit “Once” was released in 2007 that people truly started to notice him. The film was small and sweet, and featured lots of great music that even garnered an Oscar for Best Original Song. Since then, despite continuing to do other features, it appears that only his musical projects have gotten any attention, including the well-received “Begin Again” with Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, and his most recent effort entitled “Sing Street,” which has been receiving a ton of praise that’s included being called one of the best films of the year thus far by many.
In a similar vein to “Once,” the scale of “Sing Street” is small and intimate as it tells the story of a young man, Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), growing up in 1980s Ireland with his constantly-bickering parents, his sister, and his college dropout brother. After his parents decide that they need to tighten their budget a bit, they inform Conor that he will be attending a new school. As is often the case, he has a little trouble adjusting at first, but he soon finds a friend in Darren (Ben Carolan). The same day he meets Darren he also takes a chance on talking to a mysterious girl, Raphina (Lucy Boynton), who hangs around the school, asking her if she wants to be in his band’s music video. She gives him her number, but the problem is that he doesn’t really have a band, forcing him to form one very quickly with Darren’s help. They eventually get pretty good, and even make a few videos along the way, but their big test will come when they play in front of their classmates at the school’s big end of year party.
“Sing Street” is the kind of film that’s very pleasant to watch, even though the story is far from original. To boil it down to its basics, it’s boy meets girl and boy trying to impress girl. There isn’t really much more to it than that, but even with the unoriginal setup, the film still has a charm about it that helps carry it along through the standard scenes of Conor trying to get together with Raphina, Additionally, it certainly doesn’t hurt that young actors Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Lucy Boynton play their roles very naturally, helping to play up the film’s sweet nature.
However, if we were simply judging by the story, then there probably wouldn’t be much of a reason to bother with the film, for there isn’t anything here that we haven’t already seen before.
This is where one of Carney’s great strengths comes in: his ability to make musicals with incredible soundtracks that pull you right into the film. Going back to “Once” once more, that had been a similar experience in which the story was nothing particularly special, but the music was phenomenal, so on that basis alone it was definitely worth seeing. “Sing Street” ends up being yet another example of this, with the very familiar narrative not doing much to boost the film, but with the help of a great selection of old and new songs, the film becomes more than it would have been if it had depended on the story alone.
That being said, I don’t want you to think that Carney’s screenplay is bad, just that it doesn’t contain that much originality. It certainly does have its high points though, including some hilarious scenes in which we get to watch the band (the titular “Sing Street”) make their videos, the first of which is the only one we get to see. The clothes, the makeup, the sound, and the content are enough to take you right back in time. The result is a hysterical tribute to awfully cheesy ‘80s music videos that acts as a fun little nostalgia trip for fans of the period.
You may not remember much else about “Sing Street” when it’s over, but you shouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself humming the tunes with a big smile on your face, for even though it doesn’t really take any particularly surprising turns, there’s still plenty to like among the talented cast, the excellent music, and its sweet sentiment. Carney certainly has a talent for this type of film, and while I can’t shower it with the high levels of praise that some have, it still stands as a fine musical that’s worth a look.
“Sing Street” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. The picture remains perfectly sharp and clear throughout the presentation, giving you a great look at the period detail that went into the film. Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is fantastic, giving you all of the dialogue, and more importantly the incredible soundtrack, in outstanding quality. Overall, the film has been given top-notch treatment, leaving you with the best experience possible.
Making Sing Street (5 Minutes): A brief featurette that features snippets of interviews with the cast and crew in which they discuss the film.
Writer/Director John Carney & Adam Levine Talk Sing Street (3 Minutes): An uninformative featurette featuring a short interview with Carney and Levine.
Cast Auditions: A series of videos that includes eight cast members’ auditions and a brief interview with Carney about the casting.
While “Sing Street” may not have a lot of originality to offer in the story department, it still rises on the strengths of its incredible soundtrack, a great ensemble, and a charm that permeates its classic setup. However, out of all of these, it’s the music that will be the most remembered. Just like with “Once” and “Begin Again,” it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see it receive an Oscar nod for one of its several original songs. In the end, this is the kind of film that shows us how sometimes all it takes is a little great music to work wonders.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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