Dave’s 3-Word Review
Unpleasant Pleasantville Musical
The era of Disney’s High School Musical franchise may be over, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Disney has let go of it or is willing to. That teen sensation of a franchise was widely popular, sprouting two sequels, one of which made it to the big screen. It is understandable that Disney might want to repeat their success by making another teen musical, which can be seen with Teen Beach Movie. I will have to say that the one thing High School Musical actually did right was have Kenny Ortega. Having worked with Michael Jackson on a number of tours, Ortega knew music, and clearly had a creative mind when making HSM three times over. Teen Beach Movie had nothing to do with Kenny Ortega, and his non-involvement with the project is apparent.
Brady (Ross Lynch) was just broken up with by his summer girlfriend, McKenzie (Maia Mitchell), and he’s not taking it well. She is going to leave town in the morning, and everything was set to change…and change it did. On one last morning of surfing, McKenzie and Brady are taken by a 40-foot tidal wave, sending them into Brady’s favorite movie, Wet Side Story. Wet Side Story, of course, taken off of West Side Story. The two gangs fighting are bikers and surfers, and plenty of sing fighting to go around. When Brady and McKenzie change the events of the movie, they must change it back in order to get home.
Say what you will about High School Musical, I actually liked it. Personally, I believe the writing was done well enough to have great characters you can actually connect with and like. The music was usually catchy toe-tappers that you couldn’t get out of your head as well. There was just something magical about the series. It was childish and silly, yes, but there was clearly a lot going right in that series versus Teen Beach Movie. There was no originality here at all. Certain movies are clearly used as inspiration, including (obviously) West Side Story, Pleasantville, Grease, High School Musical, and even Back to the Future. I couldn’t find a lick of originality in the entire film, and the premise itself irked me. It may have been because it revolved around surfing, which I’ve never cared for, but it also had to do with the weak writing.
The writing had a lot of stereotypes in it. We clearly have a blonde surfer guy who in one scene continued to say stereotypical lines one after the other, such as radical and cowabunga! Then I started to ask myself…why is this musical that is based off of Romeo and Juliet this guy’s favorite movie, and why is he so ready to sing and dance? They then try to convince the audience that he’s straight? The music itself is considered writing, and almost none of the songs had a special quality that would make them memorable. Maybe one or two stood out above the rest, but the rest were so humdrum, it’s a mystery as to why anyone would actually be compelled to buy a soundtrack or learn the songs recreationally.
One of the most important aspects in a musical is clearly sound editing, which this film definitely did not excel in. That’s saying a lot, considering expectations are considerably low for musicals. When people bust out in song and there is suddenly instruments playing, it’s just not going to sound natural. Musicals typically execute this in a good-enough light to pass it as believable, but there was just something about how it was done in this film that seemed so fake.
As for the antagonist, they didn’t need any. The main conflict in this film was clearly man vs. nature and trying to escape that… no antagonist was ever needed. So, when they introduced the mad scientist, it felt out of place and just too weird. His role prolonged the movie, and I honestly think it was the worst part of the movie, that next to the premise of surfing versus bikers.
Finally, this is a kids movie, so where are the morals? There was only one moral here, and it was a weak one: Girl power; independence. Basically, this takes place in the sixties when women were more dependent on men to make them happy, and McKenzie goes out of her way to tell the girls that they don’t need men to make them happy…it was really lame and obvious. Which brings me to the acting…look…it’s a Disney Channel Original movie, the acting sucked…bad. It was over-the-top, but that could be understood given the time period it was supposedly taking place in. Sixties movies often did have over-the-top acting… so I can’t take too much off for that.
Overall, I typically don’t rate TV movies, but given my history of actually liking the High School Musical franchise, and even Glee, I decided to give this one a try. Nope. Stay away.