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CrankyCritic® movie reviews:
Light it Up

Starring Usher Raymond, Rosario Dawson, Robert Ri'chard, Clifton Collins, Jr., Fredro Starr, Sara Gilbert, Judd Nelson and Forest Whitaker, Vanessa L. Williams and Glynn Turman
Screenplay and Directed by Craig Bolotin
Rated [R], 98 minutes

Someone must have thought this was a good idea: Take half a dozen inner city kidlets, have one of 'em accidentally shoot a cop and then hold said wounded Officer hostage while they make demands for better school conditions and bond as human beings.

I guess if you come from a place where your mindset is that the police are the enemy, regardless of guilt or innocence or accident or deliberate intention, then this thing will make sense to you. Cranky doesn't come from that place.

The High School is in Queens, New York. The area holds a full run of races and the school itself is far beyond habitable. No heat. Broken windows in the middle of winter. No new textbooks. A veritable educational hell on earth. When the one teacher who gives a damn (Judd Nelson) is pushed to the limit he takes his class off campus, to a warm diner, 'cuz every other habitable extra-curricular area in the school is already full. This action, thanks to a plot device we won't tell, gets the man suspended. The students stage a protest in the principal's office (Glenn Turman as the stressed out principal, more concerned with appearance and his forthcoming pension) and when the on campus cop is called in to break the protest up an incomprehensible set of circumstances leads one of the kids to shoot the cop (Forest Whitaker).

What makes the circumstances incomprehensible is properly explained down the line. What makes it impossible for me to be sympathetic, even to suspend any kind of belief system for 90 minutes, is that in a hall full of witnesses, an accidental shooting is just that. That five of the six kidlets can look at a wounded cop and decided that he isn't hurt so bad is beyond me. The decision to hold the cop hostage so that the kidlets can make demands for improvements in the school might make sense if you can buy into the thought processes, but I can't.

The six kidlets: a sports star (Usher Raymond), a hustler (Clifton Collins Jr.), a gangsta (Fredro Starr), a artist (Robert Ri'Chard), a smart girl on the Student Council (Rosario Dawson), and a pregnant white kid with attitude (Sara Gilbert). Vanessa L. Williams plays the negotiator who is, ultimately, helpless and the film moves towards the inevitable.

Those that survive get happy endings. Those of us who sat through a preview of Light It Up stared at the screen wondering how the hell we were going to write this thing up without sounding racist. From an analytical point of view, writer/ director Craig Bolotin follows the path it sets out for itself. Some of the dialog is awful. All of the characters fill some sort of stereotype.

The idea that our society has reached a point where this kind of story idea is possible makes me want to scream. You can argue that Light It Up brings up issues. I'll argue back that it promotes an absolutely despicable treatment of human beings.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Light It up, he would have paid...


idweek rental. See it if you must.

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