"Standing Ovation" is jaw-droppingly awful, a movie that fails on every conceivable level. It tells a story so contrived, artificial, implausible, tacky, shallow, and cloying that it does more than cross the fine line between escapism and utter incompetence - it crosses it and then keeps on going and going and going until it's barely a speck on the horizon. Movies like this are astounding, begging the question not only of why it was made, but also of why it was conceived of in the first place. I fear I already know the answer to the second question: To continue a trend of displaying preteen girls not as legitimately talented singers and dancers, but as packaged products to be bought and sold. This sends a profoundly wrong message, and what's worse, it's sent in a way that can't even be described as entertaining.
The film basically consists of two rival girl bands - one too young to be doing what they're doing, the other too old - wearing gaudy costumes and bumping and grinding in a series of stage acts and music videos. All are badly choreographed and set to a bubblegum pop soundtrack so devoid of imagination, they make the songs of "High School Musical" sound like show tunes from an Andrew Lloyd Webber stage production. There are times when the songs literally sound like they're being adlibbed, since lyrics about wanting to sing and dance are about as inspired as lyrics about falling in love. When the girls aren't flashing themselves off as faceless, plastic marketing drones, they engaged in an atrocious and predictable plot involving a national music video contest, where the cash prize is valued at $1 million.
The heroes of the story are five junior high friends - Brittany (Kayla Jackson), Tatiana (Alexis Biesiada), Maya (Na'jee Wilson), Blaze (Pilar Martin), and Cameron (Kayla Raparelli) - all in a band called The 5 Ovations. The villains, who all seem a little too old to be in the same school as The 5 Ovations, are the Wiggs sisters - Ziggy (London Clark), Angel (Erika Corvette), Zita (Ashley Cutrona), Twiggy (Devon Jordan), and Zoey (Jeana Zettler). They're in a band called The Wiggies, and wouldn't you know it, they come from a family of wig makers and are always wearing wigs. All five are rich, spoiled, and just plain mean. They're also cheats; they, along with their awful parents, aren't above sabotaging the competition, nor are they opposed to paying people off.
The "heart" of the story centers on Brittany. Ever since her father abandoned the family, she and her songwriter brother (Austin Powell) live a meager existence with their cash-strapped Irish grandfather (P. Brendan Mulvey), who has a gambling problem. In a scene of overwhelmingly bad taste, Brittany storms off to retrieve her grandfather from an off-track betting site; he, of course, loses all his money, and she, of course, chastises him for it, but then she makes a bet herself, and she wins. I was tempted to walk out of the theater right then and there. What gall. What a poor display of judgment. What a horrible excuse for plot advancement. A scene like this has no place in a movie aimed at preteen girls.
In an equally infuriating subplot, Brittany becomes involved with Joei Batalucci (Joei DiCarlo), who speaks tough Italian street talk, despite being just a kid, and is on a mission to find the man who stole $90,000 from her father. She intimidates every lead she gets with a purse full of creepy crawlies, including frogs, scorpions, electric eels, and at one point, a cobra. No, really. She pulls out a cobra. Good God, who actually comes up with this? Aside from being completely ill-fitting with the film's adolescent music video atmosphere, it also isn't something any self respecting adults would do on screen. Is that how this movie got made? Was it originally a screenplay written for adult characters, only to be rejected and then reworked to accommodate young girls? This is just appalling.
The worst character of is played by Alanna Palombo, who's now ten but couldn't have been more than seven or eight when the movie was filmed. Her character is named Alanna Wannabe, who introduces herself by adding with great sass, "And I'm gonna be!" She struts around like a diva, ordering people much older than her around (including an entire department of firefighters), butting herself into everyone else's audition because she's ambitious and wants to get ahead. Here's a girl so intrusive, so annoying, and so phony that you just want to smack her across the face and bring her back to her senses. There's nothing funny or entertaining about characters like this; they're nothing but broad, desperate caricatures that show not the slightest traces of truth.
"Standing Ovation" is not only one of the worst movies of the year, it's also one of the worst movies I've ever seen. It's founded on a spectacularly ill-conceived premise. The characters are given absolutely no depth. The screenplay is an unfocused morass of gimmicky pop culture and manipulative set ups. It ends on a shamelessly sentimental note that, like the family sitcoms of yesteryear, resolves everything in an explosion of insincere good will. It's not about artistry, but petty marketability, a message young girls need not be exposed to. As if all that weren't bad enough, the cast isn't very good at all, and I'm afraid this isn't just a case of the girls being young and new to the movies - as the saying goes, they couldn't act their way out of a paper bag. It's amazing this movie got the title of "Standing Ovation," an event it's unlikely to ever receive.
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About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi (Chris_Pandolfi)
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About a group of friends competing in a national tween music video contest. Enter a world of hilarious adventures, original songs and never before seen dance routines! You will be left believing in the power of childhood dreams... Written by Nicholas Pavoni