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Movie Review

Swing Kids

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and profanity

Reviewed by: Maggi

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
1 hr. 54 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Cover Graphic from Swing Kids
Featuring: Robert Sean Leonard, Christian Bale, Frank Whaley, Barbara Hershey, Kenneth Branagh
Director: Thomas Carter
Producer: _____
Distributor: Buena Vista

In 1939, swing music (Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, etc) was all the rage around the world and among the youth. But in Germany, Adolf Hitler banned all jazz music because many of its musicians were either black or Jewish. It was illegal to sell the records, so many of the stores sold them under different names. It was also illegal to listen or dance to swing music. However, a group calling themselves “swing kids” defied the Nazis. If there was one thing Hitler was not going to take away from them, it was their music.

The situation in “Swing Kids” is not based on one real life-incident, but it does show a bit of what these young people had to endure. The story revolves around a group of friends: Thomas, Peter, and Arvid. When a practical joke goes wrong, Peter (Robert Sean Leonard) gets arrested by the SS and is given a choice: either be sent to a work camp, or join the Hitler Youth. Reluctantly, he joins the Hitler Youth and Thomas (Christian Bale), not wanting his friend to go through this alone, also joins to keep his friend company.

They believe that they can still be “Hitler Youth by day and swing kids by night.” They go along with the Nazis, while still listening to the forbidden music and dancing at underground secret clubs. Meanwhile, Arvid (Frank Whaley) remains somewhat of a martyr. He’s not afraid to speak up against the Nazis, and even does so to their faces. But as for Thomas and Peter, their relationship becomes strained. As Peter continues to be opposed to Hitler (his father was killed for teaching Jewish students), Thomas becomes brainwashed by them, even turning in his own father to the Nazi’s.

This film has some of the best swing dancing scenes I have ever seen. It is filled with music by some of the great swing artists. While there is some foul language, and a few violent scenes, it is not overly offensive. It’s a movie about a group of young people who must ultimately choose between their friendship or loyalty to the Third Reich. This is a wonderful story about fighting for what you believe in.

Viewer Comments
I recently rented “Swing Kids” and loved it. It’s really a touching story about friendship and what extreme circumstances can do to people. Christian Bale is one of my favorite actors, so of course I really enjoyed him in this movie. I also recommend “Newsies” and “Empire of the Sun” if you are looking for movies with good acting and great story lines without all the vulgarity and graphic violence other films are regularly displaying. My Ratings: [3½/4]
—Rachel, age 17