So, let’s break this down. Hal King is an incredibly ambitious project. For any independent filmmaker, the project is enormous and all done with little money and a DIY look and feel. It’s clear by their performances, everyone involved was personally invested in seeing the film completed to the end and looking as professional as possible. This passion translates into the film’s overall charm and appeal.
Hal King is an R&B/Hip-Hop opera. The music is non-stop, and all dialogue is set to music. This is no easy feat. Though I wish there were more rhyme schemes to carry us through the sung dialogue, composer Steve Wallace successfully puts dialogue to music in a way that never feels shoehorned but instead organic to the overall soundtrack. I could go about an hour explaining why rhyming is important to musicals and how it improves an audiences’ experience a hundredfold. Tyrik Ballard, Sharae Moultrie, and the entire cast put their heart and soul into the songs and dialogue. Ballard and Moultrie’s voices are beautiful and their commitment to the songs is undeniable.
“…successfully puts dialogue to music in a way that never feels shoehorned but instead organic…”
There are also several musical set-pieces not just in the logical locations of the speakeasy and church but also at boot camp and on the battlefield. The set pieces are highly choreographed with a West Side Story fight scene to boot. Let’s face it. If you’re not a fan of musicals, Hal King is not for you.
Much of my criticisms fall in the “if you had a few extra million dollars lying around, you could have done this” category. First, live musicians would have elevated the quality of the film. Second, the handheld cameras didn’t do justice to the dance numbers. With another million or two lying around, sure, the sets could have been more elaborate. Lastly, the film could have been presented at a higher definition. The low-budget quality of the entire production is hard to overlook.
Setting expectations is the key to enjoying Hal King. Myron Davis’ film is far from perfect and tries hard to feel big budget with a meager budget. It’s almost unfair to compare it to the current crop of Hollywood musicals. In the end, I was engaged with the story to the end. As a musical, composer Steve Wallace is no Andrew Lloyd Weber, but at times, he sure reminded me of Weber. As imperfect as Hal King was, someone needs to find these filmmakers some serious investors.
"…keeps her out of trouble, especially from the likes of undesirables, like Hal King..."