Since “it takes one to know one,” Lemonade Mouth author Mark Peter Hughes was wise to write about what he knows in his tale of five high school outsiders who bond in detention before starting a band.
Namely, given the number of times that the 2007 young adult novel and its Disney Channel original movie adaptation have been compared to John Hughes’s ‘80s Brat pack classic The Breakfast Club, Mark’s proven that it takes one Hughes to know another one.
While Mouth takes a topically similar look at the cliquey high school caste system, Disney sweetens the mixture considerably, appealing to the taste of the G-rated Mickey Mouse Club set rather than the original R-rated Breakfast Club, turning the book’s rock ‘n roll flavored Lemonade into the stuff of sugary pop.
And the made-for-cable movie result is a (far more color/ethnicity blind) John Hughes High School Musical, complete with a chart-topping soundtrack, which ought to remind the folks at Fox’s Glee that when it comes to teenagers belting out songs during study hall, Disney invented the subgenre.
While at times the speech-heavy dialogue penned by the well-intentioned screenwriter April Blair waters down the sugar-rush pacing of Under the Same Moon director Patricia Riggen’s flick with too many “The More You Know” infomercial moments, there’s no denying that this is precisely the right network and ideal cable movie to drive home the timely message about the dwindling budget for arts education classes.
As such, Riggen’s tribute to artistically rebellious youths in a high school dominated by sports and owned by corporate sponsors, wherein five students find the courage to march to the beat of their own rhythm – even if it’s just tapped out on a desk in music room detention – plays like the channel’s Rebel Without a Cause to the Andy Hardy movie that was Camp Rock 2.
Successfully dividing the narrative among five different teenage protagonists of all walks of life from Asian to Indian to Latin American etc., although predictably some of the other characters suffer by comparison particularly the cartoonish adults and thinly drawn antagonists, Lemonade Mouth nonetheless offers refreshingly more than enough plot to spare.
In fact, there’s so much going on that given the challenge of squeezing a novel into a 107-minute running time – especially when you also have to account for a handful of soon-to-be Disney Radio hit songs – occasionally some of the spirited turns of events feel more like chapter-length diversions rather than naturally evolving obstacles.
But even though Mouth’s overly crowded final act doesn’t flow as well as the film’s incredibly flavorful first half, it’s at its best when the plot segues just spin off naturally like a guitar solo as evidenced in a charmingly comedic sequence of Murphy’s Law where everything that can go wrong for the bandmates does (and then some).
While in the end, you’ll never be able to duplicate the organic flavor of John Hughes’s Breakfast blend of bitter and sweet – nor should anyone try – Mark Peter Hughes reminds us that you can never go wrong with writing what you know, particularly from one Hughes to another.
Text ©2011, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.