“La La Land” is hardly Hollywood’s first self-congratulatory venture, but it is perhaps its most charming.
Opening with a song-and-dance number big enough to close down an entire Los Angeles off-ramp, “La La Land” follows the blossoming courtship of Mia (Emma Stone), a barista struggling to find success as an actress, and Seb (Ryan Gosling), a jazz purist frustrated by his job prospects on the keys.
Gosling and Stone’s tertiary spin is their most impressive. Musical numbers come and go, and the pair aces them all, highlighted by a spacey number in Griffith Observatory and a bittersweet grand finale. It’s a project that is choreographed to a tee, and that polish oozes from each number.
Damien Shazelle’s (“Whiplash”) wondrous direction gives the genre a nice jolt. “La La Land” is not a 2016 “Dancin’ in the Rain,” and that is its biggest win. It brings the genre into the 21st century on its own merits, sometimes even jabbing at its own industry while also paying homage to it. (An old-school Technicolor logo emblazons the frame at the start, while a character later pitches a modern-day Goldilocks sequel that focuses on the bears.)
Schlocky, feel-good fare tends to be in abundance during the holidays, and while “La La Land” certainly has plenty of delightful moments, it doesn’t rest on the genre’s laurels. It does slog a bit during its middle act but that can be forgiven. (John Legend is perfect, and it turns out that helps a lot.) Surprisingly human alongside its celluloid musical counterparts, “La La Land” is a marvelous visual and audio experience, and perhaps mainstream cinema’s most endearing musical since 2011’s “The Muppets.”
“La La Land” is slated to hit Columbus theaters Dec. 25.Rules of the road: Comments that are off topic or can be seen as personal attacks are subject to removal.