Combustible Celluloid
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With: Helena Howard, Elena Kampouris, James Bloor, Nick Krause, Ellar Coltrane, Joe Manganiello, Thomas Lennon
Written by: Stephen Kijak, based on a story by Lorianne Hall
Directed by: Stephen Kijak
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 90
Date: 03/26/2021

Shoplifters of the World (2021)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

It Was Really Nothing

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Taking a cue from Airheads (1994), wherein a heavy metal band forcibly occupied a radio station in order to get their music played, Shoplifters of the World, set in 1987, does something similar for The Smiths. The band has just announced their official breakup, and record store drone Dean (Ellar Coltrane) decides to do the same. He breaks in on "Full Metal Mickey" (Joe Manganiello) in the midst of his marathon of Dokken and Twisted Sister, and forces him at gunpoint to play a selection of Smiths tunes.

Then, the movie introduces us to several other characters, the uber-Smiths fan Cleo (Helena Howard), longtime boyfriend-and-girlfriend Patrick (James Bloor) and Shelia (Elena Kampouris), who argue about whether to have sex, and Billy (Nick Krause), who is shipping out for the army soon. Rather than joining Dean at the radio station, this quartet drifts around to a series of parties, mournfully reciting their weird, stiff dialogue (much of it inspired by Smiths lyrics), and puzzling over sexual orientation.

These sequences, despite the wonderful Howard (who is great in the otherwise so-so Madeline's Madeline), are a real drag. The characters seem posed and pouty, constantly asserting their superiority, as Smiths fans, over other mortals, as well as their derision for anyone who doesn't appreciate the band. (To be honest, I love the Smiths, but I also love other bands. These characters won't even hear of any other bands, thereby cementing their annoying, hypocritical obstinance.)

The sequences in the DJ booth, however, do spring to life, and that's mainly thanks to Manganiello, who effortlessly plays a ridiculous rivet-head, but is also funny and touchingly human. His generosity extends to Coltrane, and they make a fine pair.

The movie apparently features 20 Smiths songs. (It would be a real treat to see this on the big screen, just to hear them loud.) When Cleo walks in slo-mo out of the record shop, her pockets full of tapes to the tune of "Shoplifters of the World Unite" or the inevitable moment when "How Soon Is Now" begins to chug and swirl in the air, it's difficult not to feel a little thrill.

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