“When you wish upon a star. Makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires, will come to you.”
Little did Jiminy Cricket know, when he pulled Pinocchio aside and sang him that song, that his words would still be echoing through the House of Mouse some 60 years later. Well, the cricket may be retired now, but there are a handful of cheetahs eager to carry on the sentiment.
The Cheetah Girls are back, to thunderous applause from their cheetah-lirious fans, with a second Disney Channel original movie. These four high school divas dream of making it big someday. They love to sing, to dance … and to shop. In fact, their names almost sound like a shopping list. There’s Galleria (the musical one), Chanel (the sassy one), Aquanetta (the smart/artsy one) and Dorito … er, Dorinda (the dancing one).
Chanel and her single mom are going to Spain over summer vacation, where Mom hopes for a marriage proposal from her Castilian amour. However, poor Chanel is a mess. Not only will this break up her girl group for the summer, but it could mean that she’ll be moving to Spain permanently. So Galleria and the other kitties leap into action (literally wishing on a star) and find a way to be accepted into the Barcelona music festival. It’s perfect. They can wing their way to Spain, help Chanel, shop in Europe (!) and possibly get their big break, all at the same time.
But once the “growl power” girls get to España, things are definitely not cheetah-licious for Galleria. Not only can’t she find a solution to Chanel’s problem, she can’t even get the girls together to rehearse. Dorinda is off with a handsome dancing count (you don’t meet one of those every day), Aqua is drawn to the beauty of Spain and designing her own fashions, and Chanel is creating sweet Spanish music with her new friend, Marisol. To add injury to insult, Marisol’s controlling mom tricks the girls into violating festival rules and gets them kicked out of the competition. They’ll have to find their way through all these problems, or it could be the end of the Cheetah Girls.
But if you think that will happen, then you just don’t know friendship … or Disney. Mickey’s gang has a simple, old-school recipe for success that they believe will bring tween girls back to the table time and again: Give the kids what they want. (And keep it clean—at least if it originates on Disney Channel.) Thus, Cheetah 2 centers on two things that just about every young girl dreams of: having loving friends and being seen by others as special.
With all sorts of tempting and appealing things pulling the friends apart, Galleria steadfastly pleads for unity (and rehearsals) stating that if they don’t work hard they can never expect to win the competition—or remains friends. Ultimately the girls set aside the distractions, get it together, pull together and stay together.
On the family front, when Chanel realizes that her negative attitude is driving a wedge between her mom and her future father, she apologizes and works to bridge that gap saying, “I would be so proud to be part of your family.” Likewise, at different points in the movie all the girls apologize when they find that they’ve wronged someone, and they choose to do the honorable thing, even when they know they’ve been unfairly tricked. Marisol, although trying to be obedient to her manipulating mother’s wishes, eventually can’t bear her deception any longer and confronts her (“This is about you, Mom. It’s always been about you. I don’t want to live this way”). Galleria and her mom talk about their dreams, and voice encouragement and love for each other.
In this day and age of holding up toothpick-thin role models and unattainable beauty in advertisement and entertainment, Cheetah 2 shows its young audience a group of friends who are closer to average. They’re all cute, of course, but they’re racially mixed, real-looking girls who could live just down the street.
That makes a few of the movie’s songs a bit more poignant than they otherwise might have been. They speak of self-confidence (“Don’t hesitate to live your dreams/It’s more than worth it/… You’ve gotta believe in yourself all the way”), staying hopeful (“Whenever the tear drops/Don’t let the hope stop in your life/Things happen for reasons”), individuality (“Because you’re beautiful just the way that you are/Not everybody has to bling-bling superstar”) and especially friendship (“What could be better than/Knowing someone will be there when/You gotta pour your heart out”).
The girls look up to the heavens and wish upon a star for a way out of their problems. As they turn away from their star gazing, the wind blows a magazine’s pages open to “magically” reveal an answer and a way they can all go to Spain. Later, as Galleria tries to convince her mom of that possibility she says, “You know what? This is what you call the universe at work. I’m afraid not to go. You know what I’m saying? ‘Cause if you mess up the universe, that’s some major karma right there.”
Dorinda and the young count dance the tango and, later, kiss chastely.
There’s no language stronger than “dang,” “oh god,” “omigosh” and “omigoodness.”
The girls’ dreams of being “special” can sometimes have a self-aggrandizing American Idol feel (complete with adoring crowds and hip fashions). That’ll leave more than a few families thinking that the girl-power siren-call to “strut your stuff” is a little over the top. Although the girls encourage other teens to be positive and self-confident, a few of their songs (and conversations) tip-toe over the line with a “look at me, I’m a superstar” kind of attitude (“We gotta walk down these streets/Like a runway and let Barcelona know/The Cheetahs have arrived”). Marisol’s mom lies to anyone and everyone to assure that her daughter wins the music festival award. (She’s the only adult portrayed so negatively.)
Cheetah 2‘s atrociously lip-synced songs, slickly choreographed dialogue, nods to diva-dom and inch-thick coat of saccharine significantly reduces its fan base. Most parents (and males of any age) will probably stumble out of the room in search of pain relievers. However, if your constitution is either iron-clad or of the female tween persuasion, you’ll find that the Cheetahs almost always end up doing the right thing.
Along with that, most of the peppily benign music supports positive choices. And maybe that’s why I didn’t turn Cheetah Girls 2 off half-way through. In this love-’em-and-leave-’em world, these friends are devoted to each other, no matter the struggle or the sacrifice. Moreover, average girls will probably identify because the Cheetahs delivering the message are real-looking girls who could … be your friend.
All these years later, Jiminy’s advice about stars and wishes rings a bit sentimental and sappy. But you’ve got to admit, he was offering a little hope and sticking by his friend through thick and thin. It’s hard to fault him, or the Cheetahs, for that.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.