Because La La Land didn’t invent the modern movie musical.
God Help the Girl (2014)
God Help the Girl is a mostly delightful, subtly dark, and definitely messy musical. That latter fact sometimes works for it, and sometimes it works against it. Its flaws were enough to keep God Help the Girl from finding an audience, but there’s still plenty to love in the score by Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch and the absurdly charming cast (Emily Browning, Olly Alexander, and Hannah Murray), which take it to another level.
Let’s get this out of the way first: The egregious miscasting of John Travolta, who refuses to play Edna as a drag queen but rather as a “real woman” in horrific prosthetics, almost dooms the whole movie. That’s why the Hairspray reboot, widely regarded as one of the best modern movie musicals, isn’t higher on the list. Overall, it’s a very well-done adaptation of one of the most relentlessly enjoyable musicals. The cast (Travolta aside) is charismatic and peppy, which would be grating elsewhere but is absolutely essential here.
New Line Cinema
Burlesque is not good; Burlesque is great. OK, it’s like a sanitized Showgirls that’s only slightly more competent, but it’s a big, dumb, sequin-heavy musical starring Cher and Christina Aguilera, and if that doesn’t appeal to you, you’re on the wrong side of history. Burlesque is the story of a small-town girl — referred to as “some slut with mutant lungs” by Kristen Bell — who moves to Los Angeles and learns how to do the Wagon Wheel Watusi, along with a valuable lesson about air rights. It’s preposterous. Enjoy!
Tangled isn’t quite up there with some of Disney’s other recent offerings. It is, however, a playful riff on the Rapunzel story that includes a few solid additions to the Disney music canon: the standard “I Want” song, “When Will My Life Begin”; the sweet duet, “I See the Light”; and the standout (because it’s a villain song and it’s sung by Donna Murphy), “Mother Knows Best.” Tangled doesn’t hew as closely to the movie musical formula as the ’90s Disney Renaissance movies, but it’s close enough to qualify.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures