Picks and Pans Review: Sing

updated 04/17/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/17/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Peter Dobson, Jessica Steen

Pelvic Thrust might be a more accurate title, though it exaggerates this movie's sense of dignity. What Pinocchio was to honesty, Peter Pan was to optimism and Flashdance was to the concept of women welders, this film is to vulgarity and clumsiness.

It's about a Brooklyn high school whose students want the traditional musical show to go on even though the school is being closed by the New York City Board of Education. After predictable crises, the show finally depends on the talents of a jerk of a delinquent, played by Dobson. Dobson is supposed to be a charmless, crude kid with a heart of gold and talent to burn. He gets the charmless, crude part right. Apologizing after pawing a girl while dancing with her, for instance, he says (and this is apparently meant to be cute), "Well, maybe I shouldn't have grabbed your ass."

Dobson, 24, lurches around in a world-weary slump, looking 45. He is also a clunky dancer. (John Carrafa, who did some of the chaotic choreography, doubled for Dobson in some routines.) While his romantic interest, Steen, seems more relaxed and affecting, she doesn't sing or dance, which makes her a strange choice for a musical's leading lady.

There are some zippy pop songs written by such familiar names as Dean Pitchford, Tom Snow, Richard Marx and Tom Kelly and performed by, among others, Johnny Kemp, Terri Nunn and Patti LaBelle, who also has a small role as a teacher. Two young singer-actresses, Laurnea Wilkerson and Rachel Sweet, demonstrate considerable flash when the movie gets around to the big show. But it's typical of director Richard Baskin's approach that he keeps cutting away from Wilkerson and Sweet to pursue tedious subplots. Baskin wrote the scores of such movies as Nashville before turning to directing music videos. Barbra Streisand's One Voice concert was also a Baskin project and one that in both concept and execution reflected a focus that this film lacks. By the time of Sing's gosh-awfully happy ending, Baskin has aroused a lot of sympathy for the Board of Education. Wouldn't you close a school where the only thing the students do is mill around all day and swear? (PG-13)

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