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The forties were considered the Golden age of Hollywood for good reason; some of the best films ever made were crafted during that period. One of the principle factors that was conducive to such incredible creativity was something referred to as the ‘studio system’. Under this method of management the major studios carefully nurtured young hopefuls providing formal training in every aspect of their career to ensure they achieve their goal of stardom. These youthful actors and actresses typically learned to sing, dance, and perform drama and comedy as well as some action oriented stunt work. They were then introduced to the public initially with small parts moving on to featured roles and ultimately staring vehicles of their own. Many objected to the feudal nature of this system and the subsequent fashion were the stars were treated almost as property. Finally the stars formed their own studio, United Artist’, and the paradigm shifted to the ‘star’ oriented system that dominates the industry today. Now how this little history is lesson pertinent to a consideration of a new Disney original movie? The Walt Disney Studio is one of the last major adherents to the old ways still left and they are having incredible success keeping it around. The movie ‘Starstruck’ is an excellent example of how viable the studio system still can be. Disney has always provided these traditional career paths for many years but lately with their domination of the extremely lucrative tween demographic many members of the young Disney cadre of talented new stars. There is one similarity between the Disney grooming methods and the old school ways; success depends on percentages. Not all the youngsters are going to make it to the top but for the few that do the results will be huge. Chances are the actors in this movie will have representation in both groups.

The main script credits were shared by a couple of writers Barbara Johns and Annie DeYoung. Ms Johns is relatively new to screenplays with this her first feature length offering buy Ms DeYoung has some experience particularly with this specific type of made for television flick. Her resume includes other Disney tween fair as ‘Return to Halloweentown’, ‘Johnny Kapahala: Back on Board’ and most recently ‘Princess Protection Program’. Some may not realize it but even films like this are greatly helped by an author with a well established voice in the genre and connection to the audience. Have seen most of DeYoung’s previous works mentioned here I can state that the stories are naturally geared towards pre and early teenage girls but they are carefully produced to be entertaining to the adults watching. Of course if you are the type of parent willing to sit and watch this kind of movie with your tween daughter than you are most likely more accepting in regard to plot devices and other aspects of the production. If you are so incline to watch this with your daughter you will be pleasantly surprised at how entertaining it can be. It is also interesting to observe how a venerable genre such as the musical romantic comedy makes the transition to an entirely new generation. In some ways this movie is the ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ of the current generation exploring many of the same thematic elements as that Broadway classic.

The first of those familiar themes is the price of fame. The star at the core of the story is pop music sensation Christopher Wilde (Sterling Knight). He is rapidly approaching the peak of his career with a world concert tour and consideration for a high profile movie. His manger-parents Sherry (Lauren Bowles) and Daniel (Ron Pearson) are concern his constant exposure with the tabloids make him seem as if he is not a serious performer so they want him to tone things down. This means less partying with his best friend Stubby (Mychal Smith) and fame hungry girlfriend Alexis (Chelsea Staub). Their usual hangout, well known to the throngs of paparazzi is a club called Under 21. His every appearance there is met with a blinding barrage of flash cameras. Meanwhile, in the more sedate climes of Michigan lives the Olsen family. The parents, Barbara (Beth Littleford) and Dean (Dan O'Connor) and about to take their two teenage daughters, Sara (Maggie Castle) and younger sister Jessica (Danielle Campbell) to visit grandma (Alice Hirson) out in Los Angles. Now Jessica is a nicely grounded young woman who enjoys school and reads in her spare time. Sara on the other hand is a big fan of Christopher. Actually just using the term fan is a gross understatement. Sara makes the lead character from Misery appear well adjusted. Sara’s infatuation with Christopher extends into the psychotic range with her imagining a personal relationship with the star. She and her equally obsessed best friend, AJ (Abbie Cobb) follow every tidbit of news about Christopher and have constructed a pop-up book detailing his daily routine. Their behavior has one beyond diagnosis in the DMS IV and is dangerously close to breaking several stalking provisions of the penal code. Whenever either of the girls even mention Wilde’s name they emit a shriek that could make a dolphin cringe. There is a dynamic between the sisters very similar to the sibling relationship established in ’10 Things I Hate about You’. Making the comparison more on point is when Sara discovers Christopher will be at Under 21 that night but she needs Jessica to tag along to get the parental approval for going out. Sara makes Jessica wait outside in the car while she goes in to meet Christopher. In order to avoid the photographers Christopher is dressed in ‘normal’ clothes and sneaks in. Jessica. Tired of waiting for Sara goes inside to find her and what do you know she runs into Christopher. The film progresses the two cross paths constantly becoming friends and eventual a PG romance ensues.

Sterling Knight is the latest boy wonder for Disney. He has been gaining experience on ‘Sonny with a Chance’ as the hunky star of a tween soap opera playing opposite one of the current Disney pop princesses, Demi Lovato. Also here from ‘Sonny’ is Mychal Smith. Chelsea Staub has had fairly steady work over at Disney as a regular in the boy band oriented sit-com ‘Jonas’ plus a part as the mean girl in ‘Bratz: the Movie’. Danielle Campbell is an outsider to the house of mouse but she comes over with impressive credits including a featured role in ‘Prison Break’ and a role in Lori Petty’s ‘The Poker House’. There is very good chemistry between the leads that are already fairly polished actors. The DVD comes with a separate CD of the up tempo sound track. Try watching with your kids, you’ll like it almost as much as they will.

Posted 05/30/2010

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