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Cute kids, corn-pop, cheesy moves… What is this, Sparkle Motion: The Movie?
Jamie J Johnson’s ‘popumentary’ about the Junior Eurovision Song Contest ought to pack the regurgitative effects of a reckless Buck’s Fizz bender. Give it a shot though, because the tone isn’t all about aggressive uplift: instead, Johnson’s Euro-youth snapshot generates sweetness, sincerity and chuckles of a warm, genuine kind.
Sounds Like Teen Spirit is candy-coloured but it’s candid too. After a brief (and faintly flimsy) dip into Euro history, Johnson introduces a gaggle of ’07 Euro-hopefuls age-ranged 10 to 15. Each has their reasons for competing, many touching, all endearing.
Bulgaria’s Marina wants to impress the dad who deserted her. Cyprus’ Giorgos sings to forget the homophobic bile he weathers at school. Belgium’s nicely deadpan Trust belt out songs about friends who steal boyfriends while raising wry eyebrows at the off-the-leash spectacle before them.
If you’re looking for dark secrets though, look elsewhere. There are no pushy parents lurking, as in Spellbound; no Donnie ‘Quiz Kid’ Smith-style traumas brewing. Johnson persuades us that his film is about the kids’ fortitude, not about adult projections on to them.
The humour is on-side rather than condescending: when one off-key tween realises that “singing wrong” consistently is better than “singing wrong” and then shifting to the right key, you laugh while admiring his smarts.
Granted, the plotting is wayward and the eye-bothering Eurogaudiness hits toxic levels. But the charm count is equally high. You might not buy the soundtrack, but you really do root for these pint-proportioned popstrels.
Gooey tunes and rampant primary colours can’t scupper the slick yet guileless crowdpleasing of Jamie J Johnson’s debut doc. We might giggle and gag on the garish Euro-pop, but Johnson gets us on-side with winning, grinning empathy.