Lemonade Mouth (+ Digital Copy)
Directed by Patricia Riggen
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic Running Time: 113 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 26.99
Release Date: May 24, 2011
Review Date: May 20, 2011
Ever since the unexpected, phenomenal worldwide success of the High School Musical franchise, Disney has been searching for the next big thing for their teen and tween audiences. The Camp Rock movies certainly did well enough and a couple of solo outings with the Cheetah Girls and the Jonas Brothers scored good if not blockbuster ratings. With Lemonade Mouth, Disney is hoping it has found a new signature franchise. As with the other films in this series of made-for-television movies on the Disney Channel, the focus is on high school teens struggling with status and acceptance and using music as a pathway to expressing themselves and proclaiming their own personalities. True to Disney ethics, it’s squeaky clean and safe for all, but there is enough musicality inherent in the project to partially supersede the familiar and irritating knee-jerk elements that seem to be built into all of these movies aimed at a particular school-aged audience.
Five somewhat troubled teens find themselves serving after school detention in the school’s abandoned music room. There is Olivia (Bridgit Mendler) whose father is in prison and has only an ancient cat to remind her of happier times with her now-deceased mother and father. Wen’s (Adam Hicks) mother has abandoned the family and his father (Bob Jesser) has taken up with a young woman (Ariana Smythe) many years his junior. Rebellious Stella (Hayley Kiyoko) comes from a family of geniuses without being one herself. Charlie (Blake Michael) is the younger son who’s sick of always being compared to his older, smarter, soccer-champion brother now away at college. Mo’s (Naomi Scott) Indian-born parents are pressuring her to excel and want nothing coming between her and her studies including music and boys even though school jock Scott (Nick Roux) has been seriously pursuing her. When detention teacher Miss Reznik (Tisha Campbell-Martin) leaves the room for a few minutes, the natural rhythm of their bored tapping and drumming leads to an impromptu song that impresses even them. Once they begin investigating each other’s talents, they find they have enough creativity to form their own garage band which they eventually name “Lemonade Mouth,” named in honor of their favorite soft drink. They also decide to enter the upcoming Rising Star music contest which offers a record contract to the winning band. Their chief competition: Scott’s rapping, punk group Mudslide Crush which has an awesome reputation around town and seems to be the pre-determined winner.
April Blair’s teleplay won’t win any awards for originality with its mixture of The Breakfast Club with High School Musical elements, and as is often the case with movies featuring teen protagonists, the adults are portrayed as either buffoonish cartoon characters (Principal Brenigan played by Christopher McDonald) or clueless, unreasonable ciphers, none of whom can offer any counseling or assistance with any of the problems the group must face during the endless travails of eventually putting on their show. In fact, the movie may set a cinematic record for the number of disasters which befall the band members on the eve prior to their appearance at Rising Star. And when one mixes in the typical Disney slapstick (a predictable food fight at a local pizza parlor) and last minute changes of heart plus making sure that everyone is romantically paired up by the closing credits, Lemonade Mouth doesn’t distinguish itself narratively. The music, however, does offer some solace. That opening impromptu number “Let the Music Groove You” is really catchy (the band mostly relies on vocals from the three ladies though Adam Hicks occasionally throws in some unexceptional rap), and their first “real” attempt at songwriting produces a lyrical ballad “Somebody” that is also quite winsome. All the stops get pulled out for the grand finale “Breakthrough,” but the band’s reuniting after some serious fallouts with “We’ll Always Be More Than a Band” is actually the better tune. Neither of Mudslide Crush’s rap numbers warrants any discussion.
The five leads are all appealing performers with Adam Hicks and Bridgit Mendler having the closest of what amounts to actual chemistry between the couples. Hayley Kiyoko stands out as the most dynamic of the band members though she doesn’t do the most singing. As the resident school jerk who makes it his business to make all five of the band members feel continuously unworthy and unappealing, Chris Brochu’s Ray is the movie’s undoubted hissable villain. Christopher McDonald’s arrogant, unreasonable principal will remind you of the dictatorial administrator Jeffrey Jones played in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and of the parents, Bob Jesser seems the most grounded and levelheaded as Wen’s father.
The film has been framed in the widescreen television aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and has been anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. Color is bright and well saturated, and skin tones are all nicely delineated and quite accurate. Sharpness is excellent in the transfer, its main problems lying with some aliasing in the grillwork of some cars and some slight edge enhancement which is occasionally noticeable. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix fills the room with beautifully resonant and spatially expansive audio during all of the music sequences. The entire soundfield doesn’t get nearly enough attention during dialogue or non-musical scenes, however, where ambiance seems to be restricted to the front channels only. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
“Rock Along” mode offers sing-along subtitled lyrics for each of the musical numbers.
An exclusive interview scene features the band of six being interviewed on a faux television program answering softball questions about their band and singing “High Wire” for the audience. It runs 5 ½ minutes in anamorphic widescreen.
There are promo trailers for The Lion King, Cars 2, and The Fox & the Hound/The Fox & the Hound 2.
The second disc in the set is the digital copy of the movie with instructions enclosed for installation on Mac and PC devices.
2.5/5 (not an average)
Another attempt by the Disney Channel to establish a musical franchise for the network, Lemonade Mouth has a reasonable amount of good music with the typically silly and predictable narrative surrounding it. A lack of real bonus material showing behind-the-scenes moments during the production of the film show a surprising lapse on the part of the Disney franchisers.