The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Shine wants to be a dance movie and a piece of social commentary at the same time. Such things can work, provided the dancing is good and the commentary is thought-provoking. You only get the former here. Too much of the running time is consumed by the commentary, which has all the depth of a third-grade book report. Although undeniably earnest, the film presents shallow treatment of a critical issue.

This is the story of two Puerto Rican brothers, Ralphi (Jorge Burgos) and Junior (Gilbert Saldivar). They have been taught the art of salsa dancing by their father. When he's killed in a tragic accident, the siblings become estranged. Years later, they reunite when Ralphi is sent to his old neighborhood by the real estate developer for whom he works. His job is to be a liaison with influential people in the community, so that his employer can embark upon a major gentrification project. Of course, Junior is one of the key resistors of the development. When it turns out their dad's old dance studio is among the buildings in jeopardy, the brothers bury the hatchet and organize a big salsa dancing show, hoping to raise enough money to save it.

That's right -- Shine resurrects the "let's put on a show" plot that has been used in everything from those Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland pictures to the movie this one most closely resembles, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo.

The story hook couldn't be any older or creakier. Even worse, there is absolutely no nuance in Shine. Every single story point is painted in the broadest, most obvious strokes possible. Ralphi's company isn't just looking to buy up property, it's a borderline evil business unconcerned about driving the culture right out of the neighborhood. Characters don't speak in conversational ways, they talk in grandiose speeches, often blurting out platitudes about how you shouldn't "forget where you came from." When the screenplay needs a way for Ralphi and Junior to start making amends, it introduces a major calamity, the implications of which are never explored or even mentioned.

Director/co-writer Anthony Nardolillo obviously wants to make an anti-gentrification film, which is fine, except that Shine offers no substantive insight into the problem. The entirety of the message is "gentrification is bad." A great deal of time is spent hammering that basic idea into the audience's collective head, without really examining the myriad valid reasons why people oppose it. The manner in which the plot unfolds is so pedestrian and uninspired that it's hard to care whether Ralphi and Junior save the studio or not.

Shine is additionally hampered by bland, one-note performances and slow pacing. The only thing working in its favor is a handful of dance sequences. Watching people salsa is fun, especially when they do it as well as the dancers here. Beyond that, the film is lacking in any sort of compelling material. It's a generic story, told with little flair.

( out of four)

Shine is rated R for language. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.

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