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'We Are Kings' has heart of blues but misses art of filmmaking

 'We Are Kings' has heart of blues but misses art of filmmaking
Sammy Blue in "We Are Kings." (Indie Rights)

A love letter to the blues, "We Are Kings" is a spirited if technically wobbly feel-good road movie about a down-and-out musician named I Be King (Sammy Blue) on a quest to keep his club with a little out-of-body assistance from the apparition of his bedridden wife (blues belter and former Raelette, Rita Graham).

When the bank seizes their small-town Mississippi juke joint, bluesman King takes to the road in a rundown Winnebago, picking up a veritable band of young supporters along the way including a pair of homeless musicians (Jonathon "Boogie" Long and 2006 "America's Got Talent" winner Bianca Ryan) and an Internet-savvy runaway rapper (Pryce D. Watkins), all dealing with issues of their own.

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Although director-writer Toby Hubner clearly has a soft spot for the characters' hand-to-mouth milieu, clunky dramatic staging and discordant emoting from his cast of non-actor musicians keep threatening to derail those good intentions.

But there's a palpable, soulful authenticity to the musical performances, which ultimately draw you in, lending credibility to King and his talented passengers' shared philosophy: "If you don't feel it in your heart, it can't possibly be the blues."

The film's heart is unmistakably in the right place — even when the camera isn't.

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'We Are Kings'

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 16 minutes.

Playing: At Arena Cinema, Hollywood.

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