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Movie Reviews : Sentimental ‘Sing’ Hits Few High Notes

“Sing” (citywide) is a slack and sentimental tale in which a community in a dying section of Brooklyn marshals its forces to stage its traditional end-of-semester high school musical competition one last time. In his directorial debut, composer Richard Baskin reveals none of the style that has marked his film scores and other musical ventures. However, what screenwriter-lyricist Dean Pitchford has provided him is little more than a half-baked, heavily ethnic update of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland’s old “Let’s Put on a Show” routines.

Black leather-jacketed street punk Dominic Zametti (Peter Dobson) has been maneuvered into serving as choreographer for Brooklyn Central’s final Sing by his canny teacher Miss Lombardo (Lorraine Bracco). She is guiding the project with the help of ace student Hannah Gottschalk (Jessica Steen) and fellow teacher Mrs. DeVere (Patti La Belle, who gets to sing only one song, contributing the film’s liveliest moment). It’s of little use that Dominic and Hannah acknowledge their feelings for each other in the film’s final moments. “Sing” could have used that romance earlier, instead of such protracted skirmishing between them that when Dominic does his hot “Dirty Dancing” number his partner is, oddly enough, Miss Lombardo.

Tall and sexy, Dobson is luckier than the rest of the cast. His Dominic is thrust believably into conflict about following his older brother into a life of crime; he can only be surprised by the decency and commitment represented by Hannah and his teacher. On the other hand, Hannah’s conflict with her woebegone widowed mother (Louise Lasser, intense in a thankless role), whom she can never please, is too sketchy; we never learn why the mother oppresses a daughter who is pretty, poised, mature, a good student and a hard worker at the family’s seedy diner. Bracco is never able to make anything close to the kind of vivid impression she made as Tom Berenger’s down-to-earth wife in “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

The Sing is actually a Brooklyn tradition, started in 1947 by music teacher Belle Tillis; although now it’s on the wane. Wouldn’t you know that in “Sing” (rated PG-13 for language) the musical update on “Romeo and Juliet” staged by the sophomores, and the Atlantis fantasy of the competing seniors are elaborate, hard-edged show biz offerings that exude the glitz and razzmatazz of Broadway? With what these elaborate productions would realistically cost, Brooklyn Central could have stayed open at least another semester.

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