Teen Beach Movie Parent Review
If you have ‘tweens who like to sing and dance along with their favorite musicals, then you will understand what audience Teen Beach Movie is trying to attract. Full of highly choreographed song and dance routines, even the characters within the story love to tap their toes to a frequently viewed film full of bikini babes and biker dudes, reminiscent of the beach-party flicks made during the 1960’s.
Wet Side Story (yes, the similarity to West Side Story is intended) is beloved by Brady (Ross Lynch), even though his girlfriend Mack (Maia Mitchell) thinks it is silly. After a perfect day surfing together, the teen couple drops by the Mack’s grandfather (Barry Bostwick) board shack and finds him enjoying the cheesy (fictitious) classic about rival gangs vying for a coveted hangout. The appeal of the show fades though when it is announced Mack will be leaving their sandy shore to attend a private school in the east.
The soon-to-be-senior has made this decision in the hopes of fulfill her dying mother’s last wish that she make something of herself. It is easy to see why Brady is unhappy with her choice, although it is less obvious why her grandfather disapproves of her lofty academic goals. Still, Mack is determined to go – right after she hits the waves one last time.
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Unusual weather makes for challenging and thrilling surfing conditions the next morning as Mack paddles out on a special board rumored to have magical powers. Concerned for her safety, Brady follows behind. Then a large wave knocks them both into the water. When they surface, they are no longer in their own world but have been mysteriously transported into the make-believe setting of Wet Side Story.
Brady is delighted and is soon singing and dancing with the cast. Mack on the other hand just wants to get back to reality. The two agree their best hope is to try to ride the tide home during the storm that happens at the conclusion of the movie. However, their splash down in the middle of the screenplay seems to be rewriting the script. This is especially apparent when Tanner and Lela (Garrett Clayton and Grace Phipps), the main characters of the Romeo-and-Juliet-like story, accidentally developed romantic feelings for Mack and Brady, rather than falling for each other. That and other alterations may put the plot so off course that there is no happily-ever-after ending for any of them.
Despite the complicated (and far-fetched) set-up, there really isn’t much substance to this tale of two surfers. The acting is mediocre too, even when you take into account the writers are spoofing the beach-party genre. Even the modern sensibilities the new millennials try to share with their 1962 counterparts seem like platitudes about feminism (girls don’t need boys to be their heroes), tolerance (bikers and surfers ought to get along) and following your heart (a message parents aren’t likely to sympathize with because fun at the beach appears to be a better choice than a serious education.)
But that is not the point of this Disney Channel production, which presents a product devoid of bad language, sports only handholding for sexual content, and has just a smidge of violence in the form of a pair of melodramatic villains. What’s supposed to capture the viewers’ attention are the catchy tunes and amazing hoofing. And in this regard, Teen Beach Movie does not disappoint. The music will stick in your head (for better or worse) and the moves will have a new generation admiring the art of dance. (The home video extras even include rehearsal footage for those with dreams of going to Hollywood one day.)
Unfortunately, I don’t think I will ever be an enthusiast of these big production numbers the way the characters of Brady and Grandpa are. (I’m only lukewarm about such greats as Singin’ In The Rain.) Instead I’m inclined to feel more like Mack who complains (in lyrics of course) as she becomes more and more assimilated into musical: “Oh, I can’t stop singing… Make it stop, Make it Stop… Someone won’t you make it stop!”Directed by Jeffrey Hornaday. Starring Ross Lynch, Maia Mitchell, Grace Phipps, Garrett Clayton, Barry Bostwick. Running time: 91 minutes. Updated June 25, 2015
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Teen Beach Movie here.
Teen Beach Movie Parents Guide
Grandpa seems rather unenthusiastic about Mack pursuing her education at a prestigious private school, and promotes the idea of “finding one’s destiny”. Meanwhile Mack’s aunt (Suzanne Cryer), who is pushing the girl towards academic achievement, makes the statement, “The only way to find your destiny is to work for it.” Whose advice does the movie favor? What things does the script do to help you know what side of the argument you should be on? If you take those cues away, and just look at the counsel, where would you stand on this issue?
This film makes fun of some of the conventions of a teen beach movie. For instance, the way the cast constantly breaks out into song, and the way characters’ hair never gets wet even when they are surfing. What other things happen in film that would be utterly ridiculous if they happened in real life? Why are we willing to accept those depictions in a make-believe world?
Learn more about the beach party film genre.