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New Movie Reviews

"Autism: The Musical" DVD

by Steve Anderson
thevideostoreguy@columnist.com

When you can open your movie with this:

In 1980, one in 10,000 children were diagnosed as autistic. Today, it is one in 150. You know you're going to get somebody's attention.

And that's exactly how Autism: The Musical opens, so you know they're going right for the throat.

The movie itself, meanwhile, is about the Miracle Project and its denizens--autistic kids. The Miracle Project has something of an ambitious goal, you see--to mount an original musical production staged entirely by autistic kids.

Now, when I first heard that, the first thing I thought was that this thing was going to be the cheesiest, preachiest, we-can-do-it-too presentation of raw hubris that I would ever seen. Yes, yes, we've all been steeped on the PC love-in train for decades now--we know that disabled--no, it's DIFFERENTLY ABLED now--people can do just the same things that everyone else can. Do we truly need an entire movie / musical to tell us, yet again, that this is all possible?

Yeah. We do. Because this time, "Autism: The Musical" is going to make it real clear, and in a visual sense. There's not a whole raftload of so-called "talking heads" with lots of abbreviations yammering about neurochemistry and whatnot. It's just a bunch of kids who have this really difficult time of life being rounded up into one location and pushing at the boundaries of life, forcing them outward and taking us with them.

Perhaps even better is that these aren't what you might expect. Many of the kids have strange aspects to their personality that come out of left field--like the ten year old autistic mack who's hitting on every girl in sight, or the dinosaur / early mammal expert who's either brilliant or just talking gibberish (I really can't tell because I don't know anything about dinosaurs; I can't verify anything he's saying and it's slightly maddening.) Then, of course, there's the cello player. He's actually pretty good, really--a few years practice and he'd be in a high school orchestra.

So they've built something here, these autistic kids...and it's almost humbling. It's like building a log cabin without hands. It's like running a marathon without feet. It's just...amazing. Watching these kids, most of them have the attention span of ferrets in a world made of tinfoil but there it is. They did it. They MADE this thing. They walked through hell to make this thing and they went and did it.

For anyone who's ever looked at their lives and said, there's no way I can do this...you need to see this movie. It is inspiration in a 5.5 x 7.5 inch box. If you walk away from this movie without some kind of inspiration, then watch it again. Seriously. The word "inspiration" will come into play when pretty much anyone talks about this movie. I will be no different.

The ending is where the musical itself is mounted...and just when things are looking darkest, somehow, at least a temporary victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat.

The special features included deleted scenes, a companion guide, a featurette about autism, and a filmmaker biography.

All in all, Autism: The Musical is by lengths terrifying and uplifting. One minute it will make you cheer and the next it will break your heart. This movie is the continual explosion of two polar oppositions, and it's bound to shake someone up. And if it does...I'm not convinced that that will be a bad thing.

 

Autism: The Musical
***
Directed by Tricia Regan
Produced by Perrin Chiles, Tricia Regan, Sasha Alpert
93 mins
NR
2008

 

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