Movie Reviews: Light It Up




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     Fox 2000
     A half dozen students take over their high school in protest of a popular teacher's suspension.
     Usher Raymond, Forest Whitaker, Rosario Dawson, Judd Nelson
Bottom Line:


     It could be argued that "Light It Up" is just another in a long series of troubled teen films chalked full of your typical Hollywood cookie-cutter characters i.e., the sensitive artist, the intelligent girl friend, a troubled sports hero etc...
     OK. So what?
     Those characters are needed to drive the drama in a film of this genre. I mean, nobody is looking for Shakespeare here. And as long as the screenwriter's execution is fresh, and no one gets hurt (like a film critic's viewing pleasure) I can see those type of characters a dozen times over.
     "Light It Up's" storyline execution is fresh enough for this critic. In fact, the whole film caught me by surprise. I was expecting your usual high school gangsta fair.
     It isn't.
     The film's drama hangs around New York's Lincoln High school where school books are in short supply and classrooms are so cold, students stand a good chance of finding out what a pop-sickle feels like. So teacher Ken Knowles (Judd Nelson) takes his class off campus for warmer digs after he's told by an impatient principal (Glynn Turman) to hold his frost-bitten class anywhere, except the in hallway.
     It might be noted here that Nelson (The Breakfast Club) and Turman (Cooley High) had started in coming-of-age teen flicks more than 15 years earlier.
     Knowles holds his class in a nearby fast-food joint where he foils an attempted robbery. The students see Knowles as a hero, but the administration sees Knowles as reckless and suspends him for taking his class off campus.
     To compound matters, the school has hired an abusive hulking police officer (Forest Whitaker) to keep its high spirited students in line. So when students protest Knowles' firing, the administration orders Whitaker to manhandle the protesters who are led by Usher Raymond. A shuffle ensues resulting in Whitaker being accidentally shot and taken hostage.
     The students began a stand-off with police and demand newer text books, warmer classrooms and the reinstatement of Mr. Knowles.
     Singer/actress Vanessa L. Williams seems lost in the film as a police negotiator -- especially after seeing last year's "The Negotiator," her performance and character comes off bland and one-dimensional.
     Written and directed by "Black Rain's" Craig Bolotin, "Light It Up" is also a terrific looking film laden with a slammin' soundtrack with songs by 'N Sync, DMX, OutKast and Master P.



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