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Good things can happen in detention. The misfits in 1985's The Breakfast Club knew it. And now the bandmates of Lemonade Mouth know it too. Because it was in that institution of high school punishment that Stella, Charlie, Wen, Olivia and Mo first met and performed together. And it was there that their bubbly music teacher, Miss Reznick, first saw that they had big-time talent—and the strength to stand up for their rights and be a voice for … well, something.
Principal Brenigan, on the other hand, doesn't see anything at all except the sports-drink endorsement deals he's working on that'll bring in a cold, hard cash flow to Mesa High School—every penny of which he's going to use to elevate the athletic department. To Brenigan, who's been sent straight over to Disney from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, if you're not wearing a team jersey, you're not even in his school.
So between the principal's banishing them to the basement and escalating antagonism from a hipster rival band known as Mudslide Crush, the ragtag Lemonade Mouth finds itself in a tight squeeze. Hmmm. Wonder whether they'll end up with sour lemons or sweet, sweet lemonade.
Stella, Mo, Olivia, Charlie and Wen become much more than just a band. They become the closest of friends—friends who can be trusted to protect, support and love one another even when life deals painful blows.
Olivia, who lost both of her parents when she was quite a bit younger, gets lots and lots of support from her new pals as she grieves anew over the loss of her mom—by way of the loss of her mom's cat. And the scriptwriters use her circumstance to speak into Wen's life, too. He's mad about his dad remarrying and has been giving his stepmom-to-be the cold shoulder. Olivia chides him for that, telling him to be grateful for the fact that he has a family, no matter its incarnations. And she helps him finally recognize that his dad's fiancée cares deeply about him and is trying to fit in the best she can.
Mo's situation is a bit more complicated from a relational perspective. We can give her props for gathering the courage to finally tell her traditional and somewhat controlling father her true feelings about her life. But she's consistently disobedient leading up to that chat, so we'll have to deal with that later on in this review.
Charlie, meanwhile, walks through the process of coming to grips with his "perfect" older brother's example that looms over him and his parents' unreasonable expectation that he play soccer just like his brother. (It's unreasonable because he's a terrible soccer player!) The two boys finally decide that the best thing to together talk things over with their parents.
Now we come to Stella. And it might be best to put her in this light: By watching her we can learn things that she doesn't learn. We can see the value of sometimes just keeping your lemonade mouth shut. We can discern the benefit of thinking through what you want to make a stand for—before you make the stand. We can conclude that life isn't always all about us.
As for the adults, there are a couple worth mentioning. Olivia's grandmother nurtures her teenage charge with grace and kindness, even dispensing meaningful wit when she tells the semi-arrested Olivia, When I said you should get out of the house, this wasn't what I had in mind. At school, Miss Reznick might be flighty, but she's also one of the band's staunchest, most encouraging supporters.
The Mudslide Crush guitarist makes a sacrificial decision to lend Lemonade Mouth a hand when they need his help. Before he does that, his band pounds out a boastful song about such things as being better than others and having prettier girlfriends and nicer cars. But we get the point: That's not the way to think or talk. Students band together to keep their extracurricular interests alive despite Principal Brenigan's threats to cut their budgets.
Lemonade Mouth might have a cause to fight for, but it's not a spiritual one. The closest these kids get to saying anything about faith is discussing their band's fate and destiny.
A wolf whistle is directed toward Wen's father's attractive—twentysomething—girlfriend. A guy makes a point of "checking out" a girl's backside at school. Beyond that, the movie keeps things at the kiss on the cheek and holding hands level. Girls wear short(er) skirts, moderately low-cut dresses and camisoles with spaghetti straps. A few dance moves are slightly suggestive.
Wen gets a black eye from a falling picture frame. Charlie slams his hand in a drawer, breaking several fingers. Shot in such a way as to evoke the idea of a bar brawl, we see the band and patrons in a pizza joint mix it up by pushing, shoving and throwing plastic cups. When Stella is picked up bodily by a couple of moving men (she's protesting them taking away her prized lemonade vending machine at school by sitting in front of their truck) her friends jump on the guys, demanding that they let her go.
In the school cafeteria, a rival bullies and manhandles one of the Lemonade Mouth guys by grabbing him and pushing him a bit. Stella responds by forcefully spitting lemonade on their persecutor.
Crude or Profane Language
Name-calling includes "losers," "nobodies" and "jerk." Teachers are relegated to the status of insane and stupid by students.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Stella is the rabble-rouser of the group, going off half-cocked most of the time. She's often rude to her parents. And she actually manages to get herself and her bandmates semi-arrested for fighting with the moving men. What happens after that? Her mom apologizes to her, saying, "You stood up for what you believed in. I'm sorry."
As for Mo, whom we promised to give a little more detail about, she quickly reinvents herself every time she's dropped off at school. She changes into more stylish (read: sexier) clothing, puts on makeup and hangs out with her boyfriend—all of which her father has forbidden. She even tries to skip class and leave the school campus one day. Then, when her father shows that he doesn't trust her, she's hurt. "I deserve for you to just let me be me," she tells him.
Charlie lies to his parents about practicing with the soccer team when he's actually rehearsing with the band.
Brenigan and his secretary are more or less portrayed as hypocritical fools, and Miss Reznick is glad when the kids put the principal in his place.
Vomit is jokingly mentioned a few of times. Guys burst into the girls' restroom to check on a sick female friend.
Lemonade Mouth's official message to kids is crystal clear: Be strong. Be proud. Be loud. Be heard.
What a far cry from even 50 or 60 years ago when humility was encouraged and children were told to be seen and not heard. What a stretch, too, from meekness verses such as James 4:10 and 1 Peter 5:6.
Now, to be fair, it's not hard to make the case that children deserved more respect than they sometimes got back in the first half of the 1900s, and certainly more than they got during the Victorian Era. But it's equally easy to show that the cultural pendulum has now swung too far in the other direction.
You see, Lemonade Mouth boasts a bold recipe for self-expression that doesn't bother to measure out what's being expressed. Stella makes an unnecessary spectacle of herself by disrupting a school assembly, flaunting a "Question Authority" T-shirt and yelling, "Wear whatever you want!" to classmates. She's not concerned in the least about the potential consequences of unlimited school privileges. Her desire is merely to express—fight blindly for—what she believes in. Whether it's worth believing in is really beside the point for her … and this movie.
Another sour note served up in this Disney Channel progeny is fame's "redemptive" value. And as if to ram that home, the movie's official website hits kids with a general "disclaimer" reading, "Anything you send to us or do here could end up on TV—on Disney Channel!" The promise—the hook, the lure—is, of course, 15 minutes of celebrity and potential fans for currently obscure tweens and teens. And the unstated reason that you'd want such things is that without popularity and fans, a teenager (or any human being) is somehow less than he or she should be.
It's an idea we're seeing frequently now from the House of Mouse. As Stella tells her Lemonade friends, "I don't want to be some random face in a yearbook or a kid people vaguely recall passing in the halls. I wanna be heard." And so she is. Literally within months of their first detention-bound jam session, Lemonade Mouth is playing to a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden.
There are certainly better lessons to teach kids than to indiscriminately express themselves. And it's disappointing that Disney gave Stella and Co. admirable gumption but little or no accompanying wisdom. Because if we're to believe this bunch, it doesn't matter what you hold dear, just fight for it anyway—and get famous in the process.
Did we forget to talk about all those friendship themes this movie does such a great job of exploring? Well, they are there. But they're not what it's about.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Bridgit Mendler as Olivia; Adam Hicks as Wen; Hayley Kiyoko as Stella; Naomi Scott as Mo; Blake Michael as Charlie; Nick Roux as Scott; Chris Brochu as Ray; Tisha Campbell-Martin as Miss Reznick; Christopher McDonald as Principal Brenigan
May 24, 2011
Meredith WhitmoreSteven Isaac