Making the Grades
The Disney people (don't let those Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures logos fool you, this film is built on Disney money), bring a movie to the screen which once again looks at an element of the pre-World War II Nazi movement. It's hard to believe there is a shred of history left in this era that hasn't been put to film, and I'm sure they had to dig hard to find this one.
Swing Kids tries to get the attention of today's young people by portraying a group of 1930's teenagers that would rather dance than fight. The principle is sound, but for most of this movie you are left wondering if these kids really want to do anything else but dance. To risk your life for the jitterbug just doesn't seem to make sense.
With one harsh profanity, a little nudity (some black and white pictures on playing cards), a good deal of violence (albeit justified considering the period), and a scene where the three buddies proudly urinate on Nazi posters (Hollywood seems fascinated with basic bodily functions), Swing Kids needs to provide a very moving and revealing look at life to make all this worthwhile. It doesn't.
What it does manage to show, is the trials and difficulties these teenagers faced in making decisions as to what they would do, and which side to fight with. However, there is always a reluctance to let the characters make a firm choice and stick with it. The movie tries to touch on the hatred for Jews being taught, but you are left with the impression that these kids just might be happy if only the Nazis would learn how to jive.
Disney put together a similar movie recently, titled Newsies, about a group of singing and dancing paperboys that decide to fight for better wages. They looked a bit stupid dancing their way to the strike rallies, and the kids in Swing Kids look equally crazy. Sure, basic freedom to dance is important, but are we not missing a few of the basic facts here?