In “Shoplifters of the World,” a group of Denver friends come together out of love for their favorite band, The Smiths. Already their lives are starting to change – a friend is entering the military because his parents told him to, a couple in the group are starting to feel a breaking strain in their relationship, another is stuck in the same job as she had initially met. But an ominous shadow then obscures their party plans when Cleo (Helena Howard) learns that the Smiths have broken up. Word spreads around the circle, but the group continues on to their original plans. However, Dean (Ellar Coltrane), the sad, loving boy who lets Cleo shoplift at the record store where he works, wants to pay tribute to their favorite band and impress Cleo. So, he takes the gun from the store, goes to the local rock station, and forces the macho metalhead deejay (Joe Manganiello) to play all of the Smiths albums at gunpoint.
The unfortunate moment of releasing this film the week that neighboring Denver, Boulder, underwent mass shooting aside, the film just never finds its rhythm. Here’s a bunch of characters so obsessed with a band that they trade song lyrics like gossip, but they don’t feel like characters outside of their concern for the Smiths. Even their clashes around gender norms, sexuality and celibacy are references to the group. There’s even a conversation between Dean and Full Metal Deejay Mickey about Smith’s message of vegetarianism and Cleo’s car lets everyone know that “meat is murder.” The film leaves no part of the Smiths ideology ignored. This barrage of references may seem exaggerated when Sheila (Elena Kampouris) of “Sheila Take a Bow” fame dramatically writes “There’s a Better World”, a line from the song “Asleep”, on a mirror. of lipstick in an emotional moment of rejection.
Speaking of the film’s credentials, they extend beyond the reach of The Smiths and onto their contemporaries. After all, what kind of post-punk rock fan would you be if you didn’t laugh at more popular bands like Bon Jovi for selling and writing superficial songs about the parties? Some of the many visual and verbal name drops include Twisted Sister, Alice Cooper, and Kiss in the Rock Station. During the groups party stops, they encounter a person dressed as Siouxsie Sioux at a house party and a bouncer dressed as Grace Jones at a gay bar. Sheila, who dresses like Madonna, spends a “sudden search for Susan” moment in a bathroom, using an air dryer to dry herself off. It’s like “Shoplifters of the World” is trying to test the limits of how many SKUs a movie can hold.