"We've died and we've ended up in a musical!" @ 5 August 2013 07:04 AM
According to the Deadline Hollywood site, Teen Beach Movie is the number 2 most-watched movie in cable TV history, after High School Musical 2. My guess is that, the new film, just released on DVD, has exceeded even Disney Channel's expectations.
While Disney Channel remains a kids' cable powerhouse, its level of huge, phenomenon-generating sensations such as Hannah Montana and High School Musical are several years in the past. The channel has some big hits, particularly Phineas & Ferb, Gravity Falls and Disney Junior shows Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins, but TV viewership has changed dramatically since the last decade. That makes the high viewership of Teen Beach Movie an even more significant success.
So how it make such a (forgive me) splash? I think people of all ages discovered that it was better than they expected, if not better than average for Disney Channel movies of the last few years. It's genuinely funny, colorful escapism, the kind of thing popular in the '60s and other periods in history when the country needed fun, silly stuff to take them away from economic and political issues.
If you liked the Annette & Frankie beach movies, this movie has more than just overt references. The leading lady is going to be sent to "Dunwich Academy," surely a nod to The Dunwich Horror, produced by American-International Pictures, the same low-budget, high-profit studio that made the seven "official" beach movies.
The villain, parodying Vincent Price from such fluffy frolics as Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine. Like Price, his British accent is theatrical. This villain is really from Pittsburgh. Vincent Price was really from St. Louis.
At the start of Teen Beach Movie, there's an iconic image for those who knows the original beach party films: a twisting young dancer dressed in frills -- certainly inspired by Candy Johnson, the "world's fastest twister," who danced over the end credits of most AIP beach movies. (I hope that, if there is a sequel, no one second-guesses the inclusion of such nice touches because "No one will get it."
Teen Beach Movie is Grease without the viscosity. The humor is more in the farcical style of The Monkees TV series (right down to the Davy Jones-like twinkling eyes). There's virtually no innuendo.
David Lawrence, son of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, did the score and wrote some of the songs, a task he excelled at for the High School Musical movies. The songs on the soundtrackare a canny blend of '60s styles and contemporary teen pop mixes.
Perhaps more than anything, Teen Beach Musical is a dance film -- more so than High School Musical. Director/choreographer Jeffrey Hornaday vast list of credits includes the Disney Parks attraction, Captain EO. Members of the cast are recognizable from such TV competitions as "So You Think You Can Dance?" The bonus rehearsal footage bears out the energetic dance moves as well as the talents of the cast.
Don't expect Teen Beach Movie to be Jean-Luc Godard or Orson Welles. Just find a comfy chair and let it take you out on the surf. Even though the surf looks deliberately like it's been filmed against a green screen and no one's hair gets wet.
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