The Fab Four: Best Orginal Movies From The Disney Channel
According to me - the films that I recommend
In descending order:
4. Gotta Kick It Up! (2002)
Featuring America Ferrara of Ugly Betty and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants fame, this film focuses on young Latinas on a middle school dance squad whose coach, a teacher at the school who was only intending to stay there for a little while, finds inspiration in these girls and inspires them in return.
The movie does a good job in depicting determination to achieve one's goals, "Si Se Puede!" (Yes We Can!) being the unifying cheer throughout the production.
Plus you can see Ferrara before she became a big star.
3. Rip Girls (2000)
Camilla Belle, who like America Ferrara would also go on to movie fame, stars here as a young teen who goes to Hawaii with her father to claim an inheritance, a sugar plantation that was once her late mother's.
While there she discovers her roots and a talent for surfing, and uses the strength gained from her mom's legacy to stand up to developers who want to buy her plantation - and the nearby beach where the locals surf - and turn it into a hotel resort.
What impressed me about this movie, besides the gorgeous scenery, was that it had a more realistic feel than far too many other Disney Channel productions, as this next one on the list...
2. The Color of Friendship (2000)
In telling the true story of a white girl from apartheid-era South Africa (set in 1977) who spends a semester with a family from Washington, D.C. and surprisingly finds out that the family she's staying with is African American, this is one of the few things that Disney has done that dealt with an issue as serious as apartheid and racial harmony.
This movie does a good job in depicting the white girl, played by Lindsey Haun, feeling awkward, mistrusting, and uncomfortable at the fact that she has to live with people who she was raised to believe are inferior to her at first, but after getting to know the black daughter, who was her age - played by Shadia Simmons - and bonding with her, discovers that racial supremacy is wrong, ultimately changing her views on apartheid and on black people in general.
I gave Disney much credit for producing a film like this, which deals with such an important subject; they certainly came a long way from Song of the South, a 1940s film which featured a slave character named Uncle Remus and portrayed so many negative stereotypes that I refuse to ever watch it.
1. Lemonade Mouth (2011)
I'm going to go ahead and be blunt in stating that in my humble opinion...
Lemonade Mouth is the best Disney Channel original movie ever made.
Which is saying something, considering the many films that the channel has produced over the years.
What really impressed me about this musical, telling the story of five high schoolers who meet in detention and, after connecting while playing a song with some instruments they find, form a band, was the realistic tone in which the movie was made and written.
The five band members, while not exactly nerds, were not the jocks or in the popular Paris Hilton-like elite; they were pretty much on the outside of the high school social hierarchy looking in, and banded together to stand up for others like them. Mesa High School, where they attended, was not a perfect, idealistic place like in way too many teenage movies, and I liked that.
Not to mention that the young people playing the band - Bridgit Mendler as shy Olivia, the lead singer, Adam Hicks as song writing rapper Wen on keyboards, Hayley Kiyoko as rebel-with-a- cause Stella on lead guitar, Naomi Scott as classically trained musician Mohini on bass, and Blake Michael as in-his-brother's-shadow Charlie on drums - were outstanding, without a hint of Milli Vanilli or Boy Band crap in them; thank God!
As were the songs, which included "Determinate", "She's So Gone", "More Than A Band", and "Breakthrough".
Let me put it another way; I have three things to say to them if I ever encountered them:
Sequel. Concerts. Tours.
Though in fairness, it has been reported that the original writer of the Lemonade Mouth book, which this movie was based on, is currently working on that sequel.
If Camp Rock and High School Musical, which were huge hits, can make sequels, Lemonade Mouth, which is better, needs to do the same.
And speaking of Camp Rock and HIgh School Musical, I'm sure you are wondering right about now why those two franchises aren't on this list. Let me go ahead and tell you my reasons...
While I think that Demi Lovato is pretty and talented, and am proud of her for dealing with her well documented issues in rehab, and while I respect the Jonas Brothers for playing their own instruments and writing their own songs ala Hanson in the 1990s, unlike so many other musical acts these days, I just wasn't feeling Camp Rock or its sequel. It just seemed a bit fake to me.
As did High School Musical, which unlike Lemonade Mouth did show high school as this perfect, Archies-like place - at least in my view.
I mean, whoever heard of high school kids hiring personal assistants, like Sharpay Evans, played by Ashley Tisdale, did in HSM3?
And I'm sorry, but that East High basketball team that Zac Efron & Corbin Bleu starred on would have their clocks cleaned by so many teams I know in real life; the producers should have had them losing the big game, that would have been more realistic.
In other words, I would have loved to have seen them play teams like Lincoln High in Brooklyn, NY, or California State Champion Mater Dei High in Santa Ana,CA, or other prep powers in that state like Crenshaw High or Westchester High in Los Angeles, or McClymonds High in Oakland. Zac and Corbin would've been singing a totally different tune then.
My advice to all those youngsters in love with that trilogy is that if you are expecting high school to be like East High in that musical, you'll be sorely mistaken and should expect some extremely rude shocks, while Lemonade Mouth, with its bullies, mean girls and oppressive principal, does a better job at depicting what high school is really like.
That's why I recommend LM over those two other big hits, and why I also feel that the other three movies I mentioned here should be seen.
But don't take my word for it; next time you're in the DVD aisle or ordering from Netflix, check out these four movies and decide for yourself.