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Film review: ‘The Sapphires’

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It’s got some great music, but otherwise The Sapphires is nothing but pandering.

The Details

The Sapphires
One and a half stars
Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy
Directed by Wayne Blair
Rated PG-13. Opens Friday
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IMDb: The Sapphires
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Loosely based on a true story, but bearing no resemblance to anything except previous feel-good pap, The Sapphires finds four female Aboriginal Australian singers teaming up with a drunken Irish manager (Chris O’Dowd) and setting out to perform classic soul numbers for American soldiers fighting in Vietnam. For a while, the film (adapted from a hit stage musical) is merely inoffensive and formulaic, allotting each of the women exactly one characteristic—their manager even hangs accurate signs around their necks at one point, e.g. “The Sexy One.” But both the Vietnam setting and the Sapphires’ racial makeup (one of the four, a cousin, can pass for white) demand at least a token reckoning with the real world, which makes a reliance on cliché come across as not just inept but also borderline offensive. The songs are all humdingers, and the young actresses can certainly belt ’em, but whenever the music stops, the pandering begins.

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