Making the Grades
After the success of High School Musical, the Disney Channel seems to be squeezing every last drop of juice out of the plotline. And considering the popularity of that made-for-TV series, why not? This time the cast is five high school students who find themselves thrown together in detention. They are about as different as they can be. Yet, magically, they discover a shared love of music.
Stella (Hayley Kiyoko), the rebellious new kid at school, constantly looks for ways to challenge her conventional and highly educated parents. At the encouragement of the much-maligned music teacher, Miss Reznick (Tisha Campbell-Martin), the punk rocker invites the others to join her in a band. Mo (Naomi Scott), the repressed daughter of a strict immigrant father, argues that she’ll have to lie about her whereabouts to get out of the house. On the other hand, Wen (Adam Hicks) wants any excuse he can find to be away from home and his father’s new 28-year-old girlfriend. Charlie (Blake Michael) would also be happy to forget about his parents’ expectations that he follow in his older brother’s cleats and earn a soccer scholarship. All the students have to do now is convince the timid Olivia (Bridgit Mendler) to join them as the lead singer.
Pegged in stereotypical roles, the one-dimensional nature of the Lemonade Mouth band members, their despotic principal (Christopher McDonald) and the popular but nasty football players (Chris Brochu, Nick Roux) offers no real opportunity for any character development. But that seems to be beside the point. This is the classic standoff between sports and arts in the school system. (Something that many institutions successfully avoid to the benefit of their students—allowing kids to thrive in both venues.)
Based on the book by Mark Peter Hughes, the inclusion of a barebones plot appears to do little more than string together a succession of musical interludes featuring Lemonade Mouth and their rival band Mudslide Crush (a name that reflects their off-stage antics to squash their competition as much as it does their music).
For family viewers, the script contains limited name-calling, bullying on the part of the principal and the "popular" kids, and some acts of rebellion (including lying at home and protesting on campus) that are touted as self-expression. In the case of this story, it’s easy to justify the students’ defiant acts since the principal is so obviously bad that no one should have to tolerate his authority. (Students seeking self-expression in the real world might not appreciate such a principal, even if he had a less draconian approach to school administration. However, a more balanced response than the one shown in the movie would be necessary in real life.)
In this fictionalized depiction of high school, these pupils start a revolution (and bring the rest of the student body along with them) that leads not only to refiguring the school’s hierarchy but to their stardom as well. If nothing else, this fantasy will likely give hope to garage bands around the country that want to be as big as Justin Bieber.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Lemonade Mouth.
What challenges do these teens have to overcome in order to work together as a band? Would their love of music be enough to help them look past their differences? How does their involvement in the band change each one of them personally? What do they learn to appreciate about their own lives and each other?
How common is business sponsorship in schools? How does this improve a school’s access to equipment? Does it contribute to a lack of free speech? Do you agree with this type of advertising?