Is there anything better than a good song and dance routine? I would argue that a song or a dance that pops up unexpectedly is the crème de la crème. If you’ve read any previous posts on this blog, and if you are reading this now then you probably have, it goes without saying that musicals and movie musicals are my favorite forms of entertainment. Even non-traditional types of musical movies are right in my wheelhouse. Here I am referring to the Pitch Perfect-type movies that are not musicals but rely heavily on song and dance as a part of the plot. Side note, if you have not seen Pitch Perfect, get on board, I haven’t actually watched it in weeks but I have one of the numbers stuck in my head right now.
But what’s even better than a movie revolving around music is when a musical number springs forth when you least expect it. The examples are numerous. Elf wouldn’t be the same without the residents of New York City gathering together and singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” to spread Christmas cheer and power Santa’s sleigh. Another scene I can watch over and over is the Barry The Cuda's scene in My Best Friend’s Wedding. This is of course the scene in which Julia Roberts’ dining partners, and eventually the entire restaurant, break out into “I Say A Little Prayer.” Both of these examples are cases in which joy is spread through song. Music does not exclusively express happiness. For example, take Steve Carell’s beautiful, if a touch off pitch, rendition of “Let My Love Open the Door” in Dan in Real Life. Carell radiates a contradictory mix of pent up sorrow and new-found bliss that is heartbreaking and life affirming at the same time.
When actors perform the songs it feels like a special treat, but song breaks that are paired with the endlessly popular montage sequence are also irresistible. Who doesn’t love the montage set to “Runaround Sue” in the family classic Little Big League? I love it, and if you haven’t seen it you will love it, too. The musical montage technique is popular for a dress shopping or a ‘show off the wardrobe’ scene, and numerous films have featured actors twirling in front of a mirror while a sidekick stands nearby giving an opinion that we all know will not matter in the end. 27 Dresses comes to mind, not a great movie, but the scene in which the main character shows off all of the bridesmaids dresses she has worn serves to illustrate my point.
Why are these types of scenes so appealing? Because music is universal. You do not need to speak the same language or even understand the lyrics, but when an up-tempo song starts playing, the average person reacts by tapping their feet or letting their lips curl into a smile.