Well, last Friday was the Disney Channel premiere of Teen Beach Movie — a lighthearted gag about a young couple that gets stuck in an old-time beach movie, and realize that their presence is changing the actions of the movie and might (uh oh) keep them trapped in 1962 forever. Sounds pretty silly right?
When a movie like this one is trying to capitalize on something like High School Musical (a billion dollar franchise for the company), I’m always a little concerned. What are the possibilities this could happen twice? HSM has a relatively simple storyline: football player wants to try out for the musical and falls for the shy straight-A student (who also has a killer voice). I’m pretty sure Teen Beach Movie tried a little bit hard to over-develop the storyline and left us a bit confused.
(Looks a nice family movie to watch in the air conditioning was much needed though. Teen Beach Movie was the most popular original DC movie premiere in the past four years.)
But it’s all in good fun, right?
- The swimsuits were pretty much to die for. (Especially the blond gal in the fringe.) I really liked the costuming a lot. Vintage bathing suits are so much fun. (So is red lipstick!)
- The dancing! The elaborate choreography (by Jeff Hornaday, also the director) was a blast, and really well done. In fact, the dance numbers were better than some of the plotlines.
- I’m really happy that Disney dedicated the movie to Annette Funicello, who starred in beach movies similar when she was younger. (Though… I wonder if this is kind of a con too since it was just not up to par.)
- The music reminded me of a mix of Hairspray, Grease, and High School Musical — super catchy even if it wasn’t as memorable as those three.
- This scene (“Can’t Stop Singing”) where the two main characters realize they are in danger of being stuck in the movie is actually quite funny.
- There was no kissing. The two leads are already together when the movie begins, they have a minor moment in the middle when they are pretending not to like each other, and still there is no kissing. Just hugging and many missed opportunities. Troy and Gabriella didn’t actually kiss until the third High School Musical movie, so I guess they were just following in the same vain. But it’s so unrealistic. Even a peck would have satisfied me.
- The villain subplot in “Wet Side Story” (can we talk about this name for a second? It sounds like an adult film) was so incredibly jarring. Basically these two semi-weirdos were trying to get rid of all the people on the island and build a resort. (I actually wasn’t even clear that this was happening.) This did not hold my interest at all, and wasn’t funny.
- The conflict between the surfers and the bikers was kind of soft. Lela, the main character of “Wet Side Story”, is the sister of the biker gang leader and I didn’t even feel like they communicated so much. (If this was true West Side Story fashion, the brother would have been a little tougher.) I guess I’m just not sure why they couldn’t coexist in the first place.
So there we go. All in all, Teen Beach Movie could be seen as a sub-par version of High School Musical for the young ones and inspire us older viewers to go dust off our HSM DVDs to see if it’s really just as good as we thought it was. (I think they hold up.)
Would I watch it again? Definitely. Though it’s more of an “I’ll watch it when it’s on TV but won’t necessarily buy it” kind of movie.
Oh and one more thing, Zac Efron beats Garrett Clayton by a million miles.