Review by Sean Boelman
It seems unlikely that any movie musical fans are clamoring for a cheap-looking Newsies knock-off, but that is exactly what Robert Adetuyi made. The utterly forgettable Stand! features mediocre musical numbers, scant characterization, and weak commentary, making it a frustrating waste of the genre’s magic.
The film is a Romeo and Juliet story set against the background of a labor movement that sees workers going on strike in an attempt to secure better working conditions. The issue comes in with the fact that both this premise and these themes have been done more effectively before. But unlike Newsies, the movie lacks an emotional connection, and unlike West Side Story, its message doesn’t feel particularly fitting to the trope
The pacing of this film is an absolute nightmare. The movie stretches on for what seems like forever, even though it is only an hour and fifty minutes long, a runtime which isn’t beyond normal. The musical numbers are spaced out with spoken dialogue scenes that struggle to keep up the rhythm, much less create an investment in the story.
Perhaps even more damning is the fact that the songs can’t seem to settle on a particular tone. Although there have been some recent musicals that have had success incorporating other styles of music into their soundtrack, the songs in this often feel like show tunes that desperately want to be something more than they are.
And while independent musicals aren’t necessarily a bad thing, they are best when they realize that they are made on a shoestring budget. Adetuyi obviously wants to do something more ambitious despite his limited resources, and while he should definitely be given props for trying to do something interesting, it rarely ever pays off.
Based on the (even more generically-titled) stage musical Strike!, itself based on a true story, one can’t help but feel like Adetuyi’s film is too toothless to have much of an impact. This little-known story had the potential to become something exceptional, but is weighed down by familiar beats, trapping it in a box of its own genericism.
The movie also struggles with its character development. Such a large ensemble may work better on stage, but in a film, it is important to have an emotional bond with the characters. For the stage-to-screen adaptation, it would have been beneficial for the writers to hone in their story on the perspective of one or two of the heroes.
Stand! is an altogether unpleasant movie musical. The songs are passable at best and laughable at worst, it misses all of its emotional beats, and worst of all, it simply isn’t entertaining.
Stand! screens in theaters for one night only on December 1.