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  Lemonade Mouth The taste of teen dreams
Year: 2011
Director: Patricia Riggen
Stars: Bridgit Mendler, Adam Hicks, Hayley Kiyoko, Naomi Scott, Blake Michael, Nick Roux, Chris Brochu, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Christopher McDonald
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Drama, TV MovieBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Five troubled high school kids meet in detention and discover they share an affinity for music and a belief in their right to free expression. Together they form a garage rock band called Lemonade Mouth, hoping to stand up for their beliefs and overcome their personal struggles. Singer-songwriter Olivia (Bridgit Mendler) is both painfully shy and mourning the death of her mother while reticent to explain the absence of her dad. Feisty guitarist Stella (Hayley Kiyoko) worries she is the only average girl in a family of geniuses who don’t seem too interested in her troubles at school. Bass player Mohini (Naomi Scott) is under pressure from her father to be the perfect Indian daughter, while keyboardist Wendell (Adam Hicks) is embarassed by his dad’s younger girlfriend and drummer Charlie (Blake Michael) lives in the shadow of his sports star older brother. Slowly these misfits forge a fervent fan following, but Mohini’s rock wannabe boyfriend grows annoyed that they are overshadowing his band and when Lemonade Mouth start mixing free speech with their music, an outraged Principal Brenigan (Christopher McDonald) tries to shut them down.

Hard to believe but the kids that went wild over High School Musical (2005) are in their early twenties now. So Disney evidently set out to snag the next generation of tween music fans with Lemonade Mouth, which ditches sparkly show-tunes for electro-pop/rock/rap fusion and, believe it or not, politics! Based on a respected children’s novel by Mark Peter Hughes, this starts out like a musical variation on The Breakfast Club (1985) but, unlike that overrated amalgam of MTV posturing and teen soap histrionics, develops into a disarmingly spirited ode to the creative arts as a vehicle for empowerment, self-expression, emotional honesty, forging friendships and overcoming adversity.

There is no small irony in the corporate entity that is Disney making a film urging young people to question authority. But between them, scriptwriter and April Blair and director Patricia Riggen mount a surprisingly subversive critique of the alliance between big business and high school sports and how it has driven free speech and the arts underground, finding a metaphor in the organic lemonade drink from whence Lemonade Mouth draw their name and its ideological rival: Turbo Blast, an omnipresent soft drink and high school corporate sponsor. Hughes’ novel touched on issues like bullying, the value of friendship and family, plus the importance in standing up for yourself and for others. These themes are all present in the film adaptation which deftly balances drama, comedy and some lively song-and-dance numbers.

Disney teen idol Bridgit Mendler heads the cast of young sitcom veterans. Hitherto foremost a gifted comedienne, here she proves an engaging musical and dramatic performer although it is arguably charismatic Hayley Kiyoko and British newcomer Naomi Scott (sporting an impeccable American accent) who truly shine throughout their weighty subplots and snag some toe-tapping songs to boot. The music is unlikely to win over anyone weaned on real rock revolutionaries like The Clash, but the spirit and underlining message are heartening and, either I’m growing softer in my old age, or the punchy electro-rock tunes are quite credible for Disney fare. There is charming scene where the kids make music from behind bars in a jail cell and the ending is admirably unexpected and moving with the band gamely struggling through sickness and injury. While not wholly without that typical Disney wish-fulfilling fairydust, the conclusion does have a certain bittersweet quality with some romances thwarted and subplots open-ended (a sequel is supposedly in the works), alongside a pleasing twist as to whom Olivia is telling her story. One small disappointment is the closing image seemingly implies Lemonade Mouth have morphed from outspoken garage rockers into a generic sparkly teen band, but that’s Disney for you.

Click here for the trailer

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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