Fans of musicals like "West Side Story" and "Guys and Dolls" will love Damien Chazelle's latest film "La La Land". For those who don't recall his name, he's the guy who wrote and directed "Whiplash" a couple of years ago. This is his statement film, that he is not a one-hit wonder.


In 1955, Joseph L. Mankiewicz teamed non-singers Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons in "Guys and Dolls" with singers Frank Sinatra, Stubby Kaye and Vivian Blaine surrounding them. The dance productions were huge with people coming from nowhere to join in the song and dance. The same is true with Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise adaptation of "West Side Story" in 1961. Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer were the non-singers surrounded by actual song and dance personnel.


Though some might think this new film harkens back to the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers films, most of their films were more intimate with smaller casts and everyone was a singer/dancer. There is something appealing about non-performers giving it a try; that's why Dances With The Stars is so popular.

"La La Land" opens with a big production, just like I remember them from my childhood. In a Los Angeles traffic jam everyone, leaps from their cars on the crowded freeway and sings Another Day of Sun - production equivalent to the Fugue for Tinhorns in "Guys and Dolls.


The two leads Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) initially meet here, but quickly blow each other off. We quickly learn, through the song Someone in the Crowd that Mia is a starlet trying to become a star in the land of many promises and thousands of broken dreams.


Sebastian is a jazz pianist barely making it playing side gigs in local bars. They will meet again and through the magic of Hollywood, they will discover that they are into each other with the recurring song City of Stars. Composer Justin Hurwitz's score is lively and memorable, you'll remember his music was featured in "Whiplash".


Much like the musicals of yore, the general theme is boy meets girl/boy and girl fall in love accompanied by plenty of song and dance and maybe a inkling of drama. The cinematography is breathtaking with deep saturated colors and warm hues; the benefit of shooting on 35-mm film and Panavision Panaflex cameras.


Just like on Dancing with the Stars Gosling and Stone learned the steps and the songs and come off as nearly-polished but not as fluid as trained professionals. It is the reason we love the film because it feels more real.


"La La Land" is a toe-tapping visual spectacle that is a bona fide throwback to a movie age gone by. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are musically magical and the big production is unforgettable.   -- GEOFF BURTON