Making the Grades
The made-for-TV movie High School Musical, was a huge broadcast and DVD success, so it is little wonder The Disney Channel is coming out with more products featuring good (albeit predictable) stories full of self motivated, talented teens. Jump In! (which captured a large audience when it premiered on television), even borrows one of the cast members from the previously mentioned film.
This time Corbin Bleu plays Izzy Daniels, the star boxer at his family's gym. With his Dad (David Reivers) coaching and cheering him on, the athletic boy is favored to win The Golden Gloves Championship, just like his father and grandfather before him. The sole obstacle he can see in his path is Rodney Tyler (Patrick Johnson Jr.), the local bully and only other undefeated competitor in his weight class. Yet as aggressive and formidable as the taunting Rodney can be, he proves to be a lesser threat to Izzy's victory in the ring than Mary (Keke Palmer), the beautiful girl next door.
Always looking for a way to get her attention, Izzy usually teases his feisty neighbor and her friends about their obsession with skipping. Still, when their Double Dutch foursome loses one of its teammates, he good-naturedly agrees to stand in until the girls can get a replacement -- after the appropriate amount of begging and arm-twisting of course. But what he doesn't anticipate is just how challenging and fun the "sissy" sport can be.
Looking like a cross between break dancing and gymnastics, there is something almost spellbinding about the way the skippers pull off such amazing moves while always being mindful not to step on the ropes. Soon the youth is completely entangled in the intricate routines and long practice hours required to prepare for an upcoming citywide competition. Suddenly tempted to trade the ring ropes for skipping ropes, Izzy's fascination is beginning to have a negative impact on his boxing performance.
Still, the young man keeps his newfound interest a secret, hoping to avoid being picked on by his friends and harassed by the likes of Rodney. As well, he is afraid of disappointing his father, because since the death of his mom, boxing has been the glue holding the Daniel's family together.
It is this tug-of-war over perusing one's own dreams versus fulfilling those of others that forms the central conflict in this story. Just as the streets of Brooklyn, where the film is set, appear a little too freshly painted, the script may also be accused of whitewashing the potentially deep consequences of this classic dilemma. Nor (thankfully) does it delve into the sorts of issues often depicted in coming-of-age tales. There are no profanities uttered. Sexual content consists of a brief kiss between two teens. And violence is limited to punches exchanged during a match, and some minor name-calling, pushing and shoving.
However, the movie should not be faulted for its optimistic outlook on the adolescent struggle for independence. Instead, the characters' abilities to work out their differences, respect each other's points of view, and solve contention without violence, should provide positive role models for kids and parents alike. While this may not be how the real world always works, wouldn't it be nice if it did?