By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
I had a roommate at San Francisco State University who was obsessed with the 1980s British music group The Smiths. I couldn’t help but think of her while watching the new coming-of-age dramedy, “Shoplifters of the World”
from director Stephen Kijack (“Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of”).
“Shoplifters of the World” is about four college friends living in Denver Colorado in 1987 and they are fanatics when it comes to The Smiths. They completely come apart when they learn their beloved group has broken up. No one is more crushed than Cleo (a funny Helena Howard, TV’s “The Wilds”), an attractive, chain-smoking, kleptomaniac who rolls in a vintage VW with a “Meat Is Murder” vanity plate.
She’s a tough young thing who has the young record store clerk Dean (Ellar Coltrane, “Boyhood”) all flustered and shook up, that even though she’s stealing The Smiths cassette tapes from the store, he lets her do it. He likes Cleo a lot but is way too shy to tell her.
Misery loves company and after watching all the news on MTV, Cleo reaches out to her other friends. There’s Sheila (Elana Kampouris, TV’s “Jupiter Legacy”) a young Madonna wannabe who isn’t so sure about her boyfriend, Patrick (James Bloor, “Barskins”) and Billy (Nick Krause, “Confinement”), who is digging on Cleo too. It was supposed to be a fun night to celebrate Billy going into the Army. Now, they are all so bummed about The Smiths that nothing seems to matter anymore.
It doesn’t help that the heavy metal playing DJ, Full Metal Mickey (a funny Joe Manganiello, “Zack Snyder’s “Justice League”) at local radio station KISS-101 FM, is clueless about The Smiths break up.
Dean (Coltrane) believes the group deserves to go out better than this. So, he grabs his gun and a stack of Smiths albums and storms into the station and takes Full Metal Mickey hostage. Dean demands that he plays nothing but Smith songs for everyone in Denver to hear and for him to come around and appreciate. It’s a long night for both and over time they begin to talk about their musical tastes and differences along with other things that allow them to come around and see each other’s viewpoints.
There are 20 songs from The Smiths that are featured in “Shoplifters of the World.” That alone should be worth the price of admission for the former group’s loyal fanbase. But the movie benefits too from its eclectic cast and I was caught up with everyone’s personal drama.
“Shoplifters of the world is a fun and funny nostalgic movie with references to Bon Jovi, Depeche Mode, Wham, and even the late Whitney Houston.
Despite hearing “This Charming Man” and other songs by The Smiths regularly in my dorm, I never became a “fan” of the group, but I have to say I liked “Shoplifters of the World” way more than I expected. I guess I should thank my old roommate for that.
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Watch This Trailer For "SHOPLIFTERS OF THE WORLD"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The American Film Institute (AFI), and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.