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La La Land

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone star in a scene from the movie "La La Land." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Lionsgate)

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NEW YORK (CNS) -- Though it's set in present-day Los Angeles, the comedy-drama "La La Land" (Lionsgate) takes a spirited stab at reviving the musicals of Hollywood's golden age.

Writer-director Damien Chazelle ("Whiplash") dreams big in this over-the-top fantasy where drivers exit their cars on a freeway overpass and burst into song, and lovers float in the air amid the projected stars in a planetarium.

Beautifully shot in widescreen CinemaScope, "La La Land" is a unique and self-indulgent film, to say the least. But it tends to lose its way when song and dance take over. Fortunately, that's largely made up for by Chazelle's engaging script, a cast of first-rate actors, and superb jazz music.

In the city where dreams are manufactured, two star-crossed lovers meet: Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist. Each is driven toward a singular goal. Mia wants to be a movie star, while Sebastian hopes to open his own club.

Their gooey romance bubbles over into a series of numbers worthy of Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. In this context, the corny dialogue is utterly appropriate, even charming:

"It's pretty strange that we keep running into each other," Mia tells Sebastian.

"Maybe it means something," he replies.

And how!

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