Picture This
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Picture This

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For most people high school is one of the most pivotal periods in their lives. It is the transition between the total protection of parents and the coming time of freedom and responsibilities that come with reaching adulthood. The commonality of this experience makes it idea as fodder for one movie after another an engendered an entire genre of films. In the eighties the movies of John Hughes took center stage but in the decades since then the high school experience has changed drastically. Means girls abound arguably more than ever but now the internet has heightened the affect on their victims. Technology has become the means to gauge a student’s place in the strictly enforced social hierarchy. Now it’s not just a matter of the right clothing and accessories but encompass the latest cell phones, music players and other tiny wonders of modern technology. One of the latest high school comedies to hit the DVD and Blu-ray market is ‘Picture This’. While not the angst filled flicks many are accustomed to it is a refreshing change from the juvenile sex, drug and alcohol fueled romps that have all but dominated the high school genre. Of course it helps a lot that those flicks are all out rated ‘R’ while the film maker for this movie choice to work in the family friendly restraints of the PG film. Of course part of the influencing factors determining the general focus of the movie is it also adheres to the well established tenants of the romantic comedy. It is not unique to set a rom-com in high school but it is different enough to give a few extra points while evaluating the merits of the movie. Another thing working in favor of this film is the cast. The youthful main cast is sufficiently perky and well trained in comedy to pull off their roles with flair. Add to this an expert supporting cast and you get some performances that are certain to entertain the entire family. Not every movie can be great but ones like this do achieve a satisfying level of fun.

The recent obsession with high technology is humorously handled by the screenwriter, Temple Mathews. She wisely choose not to make it the sole focus of the story instead relegating it to the function of the setting, affording the environment for a character driven romantic comedy. These devices are as much a part of teen life as soda fountains and hot rods were for the students of a bygone time. Like many employed by the illustrious House of Mouse she has worked her way up to this stage in her career. Prior to this endeavor she scripted several sequels and served as story editor on a number of others. MGM/UA makes excellent use of famous Disney studio system. The Disney studio training program encompasses the behind the scenes talent as well as the performers working in front of the camera. This movie has an example of this in the person of the leading lady, Ashley Tisdale, who rose through the ranks from bit player to co-star and now main character. Say what you will about the Walt Disney Studios, the certainly know the best way to develop their talent to reach their potential. Cell phone is at the core of the story but in some ways it acts as a Macguffin; vitally important internally to the characters but incidental to the viewer as the plot catalyst.

High school is not a happy place for Mandy Gilbert (Ashley Tisdale). She is unpopular, ostracized from the inner circle of the popular kids in school. In the entire student body Mandy can count only two friends; Alexa (Lauren Collins) and Cayenne (Shenae Grimes). Mandy is frequently targeted by the alpha female of the campus, Lisa Cross (Cindy Busby) who exerted her dominance through near constant bulling. This doesn’t sit well with her domineering father Tom (Kevin Pollak) who really doesn’t need much of an excuse to make Mandy feel even lower. For Mandy her impending eighteenth birthday seems like the perfect opportunity to chart a new direction in her life. Part of this new incentive is to get noticed by the certified school hunky guy, Drew Patterson (Robbie Amell); unfortunately he just happens to be the boyfriend of mean girl Lisa. While hardly a novel idea the post tween fans of Ms Tisdale’s work in the ‘High School Musical’ franchise and ‘Suite Life’ will either overlook this or just not be aware of previous incarnations of the story lines. The object of technology used to drive the story is the ubiquitous cell phone camera. When Mandy cajoles her father into allowing her to Alex’s home ostensibly to study the condition is she checks in video phone every thirty minutes. In a twist that is a bit creepy Dad wants Mandy to obtain video of Alexia’s mother. I’ve seen this plot device or at least lower tech versions of it with the check in via regular cell phones and even land lines. There is the usual mean girl’s nonsense such as the ever popular ruination of Mandy’s good dress or bribing a guard to bar Mandy. Since the Disney train program is multi faceted a singing competition is included more to showcase Ms Tisdale’s admirable vocal ability than anything overly pertaining to the story. In the past Tisdale was the villainess in such competitions but here we get to cheer her character on. The numerous plot lines may seem overly complicated but for the audience primarily targeted here this is just what is expected. Convoluted stories like this do seem to appeal to the tween set and this film fits the bill nicely. Overall, the film is pleasant and easygoing perfect for an evening of family viewing.

Posted 04/08/11

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