by Barry Meyer
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Geek Charming is another in the long list of Disney Channel movies peddling materialism and beauty, while providing a cute pouty-faced moral lesson of acceptance and tolerance. Disney, in their official released synopsis (which is cribbed from the back cover of the Robin Palmer book, from which the film is based), explains the story like this:
“Dylan Shoenfield [Sarah Hyland of Modern Family] is the princess of L.A.’s posh Castle Heights High. She has the coolest boyfriend, the most popular friends, and a brand-new “it” bag that everyone covets. But when she accidentally tosses her bag into a fountain, this princess comes face-to-face with her own personal frog: selfprofessed film geek Josh Rosen [Matt Prokop from Disney’s High School Musical franchise]. In return for rescuing Dylan’s bag, Josh convinces Dylan to let him film her for his documentary on high school popularity. Reluctantly, Dylan lets F-list Josh into her A-list world, and is shocked to realize that sometimes nerds can be pretty cool. But when Dylan’s so-called prince charming of a boyfriend dumps her flat, her life - and her social status - comes to a crashing halt. Can Dylan - with Josh’s help - pull the pieces together to create her own happily-ever-after?”
Dylan bases everything in her life on a scale of popularity – she pegs every cafeteria table with a clique label, chooses friends based upon looks and fashion, selects a beau based on athletic prowess and swoop of blonde bangs. Most of all, her entire world revolves around winning the crown of Blossom Queen. But oh! She misses her dead mother (how Bambi!), so all is forgiven. She’s earned her shallow and vapid degree in the school of hard knocks, with a minor in pity. She’s jut hurting, is all – give her a break!
In the hands of director Jeffrey Hornaday (whose chief listing in IMDB is choreographer), and first time scribes Hilary Galanoy and Elizabeth Hackett, Geek Charming never rises above the cookie cutout teen tropes, where the kids learn about how it’s cruel to be all judgey and stuff… but, only when the judgey kids have kicked you out of their elite club. And also the kids will learn that being wrapped up in beauty and image is cured by – what else! — a good makeover! The story, decidedly very light fare, is suppose to be a lesson about individuality and tolerance. The problem is, everyone in the film is a stereotype, every situation is wrought with cliché, and the morality lessons are decided and resolved by the keyboard of the writer, not by the natural progression of the characters. It’s like a light switch is flipped and the characters suddenly are cured.
The worst offense is the proffered image of young girls. There doesn’t seem to be a proper female portrayal in the bunch. They’re all there at the behest of the males in the script. Dylan slaves hard to keep the interest of her aloof jock beau, until she realizes it’s the geek she really needs to pine over. Then there’s her two-gal entourage who tag along so they can be a part of the boy hungry clique, and Josh’s film geek group’s only female member, who is smitten with him, and makes a buffoon of herself trying to please him. And let’s not forget the pretty young thing who smiles and swishes her hair in slo-mo for Josh, and only Josh… until she unselfishly sacrifices her happiness to allow him to take Dylan’s love instead. All wonderful role models for our daughters to emulate.
The DVD package is topped off with a bonus disc of 10 episodes of the Disney Channel sitcom Shake it Up, about two fame-starved tweens (Bella Thorne and Zendaya), who dance on a local TV show and lie to each other and make judgey remarks about people who don’t act like them and also girls with eating disorders… until they learn a moral lesson that will be conveniently forgotten before the next weeks episode. Thank goodness se have Disney to help our kids out.
Barry Meyer Barry Meyer was born to the world as the first scientifically produced Cathode Tube baby. He’s a film critic, videographer, editor, and writer, residing in Jamestown, NY.
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