LEMONADE MOUTH SHOOTS FROM THE HIP @ 6 June 2011 07:00 PM
It might be easy for the jaded among us to dismiss Lemonade Mouth as a TV movie attempt to launch another Hannah Montana franchise, this time with a full group, or to make the High School Musical lightning strike again. That may all be true to a degree; surely Disney Channel would welcome a new vein of gold, especially since so many of their series (Hannah, Jonas, Zack and Cody, Wizards of Waverly) are now in the rearview mirror.
But Lemonade Mouth is actually a solid little teen drama with music. The songs are more or less incidental to the story. Each of the leads has his or her own cross to bear and the film is about their journey through acceptance of their situations, not simply easy, Brady Bunch style solutions. They that also launch a successful rock band is perhaps preposterous, but their cohesion as a group is really the focus, not the showbiz glitz. It's not the dazzling Barbie-playset fantasy of Hannah or the recent Sharpay film.
And these young people are actually given roles to play, some rather complex. It is a credit to the actors and the director that they don't take the easy route of teenage overacting so common in teen dramas that it almost becomes self-parody (and was actually skewered on Sonny With a Chance, another Disney Channel series that has ended, albeit retooled as a sketch series called So Random).
I like this film much more than I expected to and so did my wife. My 13-year-old daughter adored it and watched it multiple times. But parents be warned -- this is not your usual pratfall-but-good-natured goofball Disney Channel fare. One girl is asserting her question of authority, a very natural course for the age group but still uncommon in this venue. But though these kids have fairly dark and realistic problems, it's all done with taste and restraint.
Ably heading the cast is Bridgit Mendler, skillfully carrying off a much deeper characterization than she is allowed to do on the broad sitcom, Good Luck Charlie. She reminds me of a young Audrey Meadows, or perhaps Victoria Tennant.
Christopher McDonald really should apply for a patent for the role he once again plays -- an insufferable, narcissistic glory seeking bureaucrat -- this time as a principal on wheels. His performance is a nice example of comic timing and lightens the mood as well as providing a foil.
And Mel's Lemonade looks like something I would want to buy if I could find it in a vending machine.
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