Directed by: Patricia Riggen
Cast: Bridgit Mendler, Adam Hicks, Hayley Kiyoko, Naomi Scott, Blake Michael, Christopher McDonald
Running Time: 1 hr 53 mins
Due Out: May 24, 2011
PLOT: A group of high schoolers start up a rock band after they’re sent to detention in the music room.
WHO’S IT FOR? If High School Musical was trying to sell the concept of high school to kids in elementary school, then Lemonade Mouth is aimed at middle schoolers. Boys and girls that are actually in high school won’t dig this one (or at least, they shouldn’t).
Thankfully, Disney hasn’t dished out another form of the singing dollhouse that defines the sparkly and squeaky-clean High School Musical franchise. Lemonade Mouth gets its designer jeans a little dirty, as it plays with a fuller and larger list of characters, and even the most “Disney Princess”-like of characters (Mendler) isn’t given a definitive lead treatment. The word “revolution” is tossed around a couple of times, and the story even makes a small statement about supporting small businesses over large corporate sponsors. At one point, someone even says the words “Bon Jovi.” Could Disney finally be opening its mouse ears to the cries of teenagers who have left Camp Rock and the Jonas Brothers in hopes of messages that might be more honest? No, not really.
This “revolution” of Lemonade Mouth is most directly comparable to when Kelly Clarkson moved on from From Justin to Kelly bubble gum to “Since U Been Gone” angsty guitar-driven pop rock. For example, a slightly sweet little tune like “More Than A Band” might be “written” by the rebellious girl of the group, Stella, but it sounds like a leftover from the High School Musical songbook. (Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens could easily be imagined singing it). The band starts with a piano rock sound, then moves to pop rock as spiced up by rap, and ultimately lands in some current “Top 40” territory that maybe the likes of Katy Perry have left unmarked. Everyone can dance, sing, play an instrument, though we hardly see them actual sit down and practice.
Despite the newer focus on students being able to play instruments, musicianship itself is not a respected concept. Songs that are not performed on stage are “written” in the moment in which they are played, and the labor-heavy concept of learning to play an instrument and subsequently practicing it are completely undermined by Lemonade Mouth’s mission to sell music entirely as an image. Cheap electric guitars of the world, prepare to be bought, and then abandoned. As I whined about in my rant on last month’s Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure, a sort of freakish Barbie doll epilogue to the High School Musical saga, musicianship is still formed into an accessory with Lemonade Mouth, and success with such efforts is made to be guaranteed. This is aggravating to any human being that’s both been to high school, and is also aware of the frustrating realities when it comes to comprehending music. Don’t forget, those songs are really written by forty-year-old men.
However “alternative” Lemonade Mouth might be as compared to High School Musical, its presentation of the world is still extremely guarded. At times the fantastical elements can be sprinkled too heavily. Leave it to Disney to make a rock revolution appear much too sweet.
MOVIE SCORE: 5/10
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Digital Copy of Lemonade Mouth