Having never seen the kids TV series on which this is based, and being a 20-something guy I’m TOTALLY the wrong audience for this sort of movie. Nevertheless much like more mainstream cinema fare, kids cinema has gone downhill in recent times.
Disney’s live-action family films in the 60’s & 70’s such as “That Darn Cat”, “Blackbeard’s Ghost”, “Freaky Friday”, and so on even by today’s tougher standards are still great movies with loads of laughs for both young and old.
Nowadays though kids films of a non-animated genre seem to be split into two types – the high concept actioneers such as “Spy Kids” or “Agent Cody Banks”, or the utterly inane TV movie style project which deserves to be rotting on some video shelf rather than in major release on the big screen.
This falls towards the latter – make no mistake this is a light fluffy movie which its age bracket will eat right up and even adults may find tolerable but it hasn’t got anything more than what you can see for free on a direct-to-Disney channel feature.
Yes its like “The Facts of Life Goes to Rome” but with hipper tones, much thinner & younger girls and all the typical bitchy school banter that you’d expect out of stuff like “Big Wolf on Campus” or “Sabrina”.
This pre-packaged flick comes all ready with pop music-backed driving montages past Roman monuments, a hunky accented leading man (Yani Gellman) who bears a striking resemblance to “Smallville” star Tom Welling and conducts an ‘innocent romance’, a seemingly evil twin plotline but with a twist, a bitchy rival (Ashlie Brillault), and gruff headmistress Miss Ungermeyer (an admittedly fun role for actress Alex Borstein).
The script is thin, logic leaps abound, and while some of the humour gives a wry smile most of it is as clunky as clogs. Young actress Hilary Duff did show impressive work in the aforementioned ‘Cody’ and again does well here with far limper and flatter material. The rest of the cast is fine and as over-the-top as expected.
Despite its clunky makings though there’s a fresh energy and innocence about everything which never drops into cynicism. There may not be much going on in the smarts department but looks wise its fabulous with some great costumes, nice cinematography, a peppy score and likeable characters whom even those like me unfamiliar with the series can understand and enjoy.
Yes the animated Ally McBeal-esque bits are silly and don’t feel right in a major feature film, but they do help bridge some scenes. What’s wrong here isn’t the movie itself but rather one wonders why it was released theatrically. As a direct-to-video kids effort its above average but as a theatrical release there’s not enough here to be worth your money. If you’ve got young girls then you should show them this but best wait till the video arrives.