TV Movie: “The Cheetah Girls”

As children, we’ll pretty much watch anything that’s put in front of us, without question. We don’t know the difference between something good, bad, or in the middle. As long as it looks fun, we’ll probably tune in. It’s only later, if that, when we discover just how poor our decision making was at that time.

The Buena Vista Domestic Television movie “The Cheetah Girls”, is exactly what you’d expect it to be; terribly obnoxious, but somewhat fun to watch.

This comedy-drama TV movie stars Raven-Symone (upcoming”Animal Crackers”, “K.C. Undercover”), Adrienne Bailon (“I’m in Love with a Church Girl”, “Lovestruck: The Musical”), Kiely Williams (“Holla II”, “Stomp the Yard 2: Homecoming”), Sabrina Bryan (“I Think My Babysitter’s an Alien”, “The Next Dance”), Juan Chioran (“Inspector Gadget”, “Mother Up!”), Lori Alter (“Make Your Move, “House at the End of the Street”), Sandra Caldwell (“19-2”, “The Book of Negroes”), Vince Corazza (upcoming “Halloweed”, “”Rock and Roll: The Movie), Kyle Schmid (“CSI: Cyber”, “Motive”), Denton Rowe (“Instant Star”, “Doc”), and Lynn Whitfield (upcoming “Greenleaf”, “Prayer Never Fails”).

The movie was directed by Oz Scott (“Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments”, “Code Black”) and Alison Taylor (“Shake It Up!”, “Barbie in the Pink Shoes”). It is based on the series of books by Deborah Gregory.

The movie originally aired on Aug. 15, 2003 on Disney Channel.

I’m going to be wondering about this one for a while. Some time ago I saw that one of my siblings had recorded this and it was still on the DVR, which isn’t as surprising as the fact that Disney is still airing the movie at all, and I knew that I had to rewatch this TV movie. It’s the same reason why I chose to watch “The Princess Diaries” again. I recall really enjoying it when I was younger, but I think most of that had to do with Raven-Symone more than the other actors. So, like with all things you see on TV again or just at a store or any reminder really, you’re gong to want to see what it was that made you enjoy it all those years ago. And even while you know it’s not going to be like that time, or the other 12, nothing can truly prepare you for what you’ll experience this time, as an adult.

The long and the short, this movie is really bad. Really, really bad. I knew this going in, and I still watched.

Fortunately, there are a few things that can make up for this overall suck-age. Now, mind you, these things don’t help a lot. This film is so bad, they merely cushion the fall. You’ll survive to see another day.

The songs that the Cheetah Girls sing, more or less sound good and are what you’d expect young people to like. They’re catchy and easy to follow, plus somewhat fun to sing along to. I should mention that even though I haven’t seen this movie in 13 years, I do remember all of the words to the songs. Incredibly sad, but that’s how catchy they’ve always been. For this I must credit the songwriter(s), as they fully understood the target audience.

Since it’s been so long, I was taken by surprise when I found myself liking and believing the relationships onscreen. The chemistry the actors brought together is quite strong and shows itself in every moment you see the girls interacting. It’s what allows for them to be so torn apart later on in the movie. It’s interesting too, how the relationships between the girls and the parents are explored. You certainly see a good performance from Whitfield. But it’s really only two girls, and a little Bryan’s foster mother. Still, it was good to get this insight as I suppose it would give you something to relate to, even if these girls are probably far luckier than most and have a lot more money.

And quickly, why is all this chemistry and believability possible? The acting’s actually pretty good, which I don’t think I remembered, especially for a Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM). There were some less than stellar moments, but overall it was much better than even most Lifetime movies.

Being good friends and presenting likable characters is great, and really all that needs to be achieved when talking DCOM’s, but sometimes it’s not enough to distract form other major issues. And now I’m struggling to think of some. I have one though that really makes me question the logic of the story and the characters decisions. The biggest issue I take is that, although the Cheetahs are super close, really friendly, and have good lives, at times, they seem like terrible friends and daughters.

My biggest gripe is that these so called friends, who want to become famous together and make lots of good music their way, don’t seem to really know much about one of their own. Bryan’s Dorinda, is a foster kid, who actually has to work hard for things, or simply can’t afford a lot of outfits. The worst part is that they don’t seem to know that she’s a foster kid, with foster brothers’s and sisters. I’m not sure how this is supposed to be taken seriously. These girls are so close, and don’t seem to have any other friends, but don’t know this basic bit of information about Dorinda. Not buying it. And then it’s all a major surprise when Bryan reveals this, because there wasn’t enough drama already. Regardless of how long these girls have been friends, which shouldn’t be that long as they’re freshmen, and Williams’ character is originally from Texas, it’s still ludicrous. Terrible friends.

Then there’s the whole bad daughters thing. They’re bad daughters it seems, but that I’m more going to chalk up to them being your typical teenager. Raven-Symone’s character is a complete flake and has way too many flights of fancy, that Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella looks completely organized and put together. Or, Anne Shirley! That’s a good one, too. Sure I can also chalk this up to her being a teenager, it’s still quite sad, among other things I’ll get to in a moment. Then there’s Bailon’s character, who try as I might I can’t remember her name. I could’ve looked it up, but I don’t want to spend much more time with this movie. She’s just irrational and acts like a child, even though she know’s she shouldn’t. The incident where she maxes out her mom’s credit card is the biggest annoyance. She tries to sell it like it was one big accident, when really, she knew damn well what she was doing.
As if these things individually weren’t terrible enough, they’re wrapped up in so much stupid and obnoxious storytelling, I’m still wondering how I forced myself to sit through it. I mean, I know it wasn’t very long, but you wouldn’t know this from how terribly annoying it all is.

Some of the character drama was okay, but most of it was just irritating. However, while it’s all borne out of irritating plots or other drama, it’s not all that surprising. Both make for one overall repetitive annoyance that you can’t simply swat at or squish with a book. The character’s just took on too many cliché traits and when I wanted to like them, or feel for them, I couldn’t. I didn’t care enough. I wanted the given scene to be over. Granted, I haven’t been a teenager in some time, and obviously, I’ve never been a teenage girl, so I couldn’t even fathom what it’s like. Maybe this is just how teenage girls sometimes act. When you throw in the boring and cliché story that these girls want to be famous, but must go through hardships first, you’ve certainly got a winning combination. I definitely want to sit through this once more.

On the plus side, as with any annoying drama, you’re able to have a neater finale and the movie can wrap on a happy note! We certainly can’t have the characters in a kids movie be sad or left with a bleak future. That would probably end with the Parents Television Council (PTC) to write some sort of statement condemning Disney.

I’ll admit I’m guilty of watching terrible TV movies, both when I was younger and to this day, but I’ve grown somewhat. I now, definitely, steer clear of the crap meant for the younger age group of TV watchers, however, I still watch some bad movies, as it’s just plain fun. Hopefully, especially after this viewing, I don’t decide to watch the older bad movies from my childhood. That’s just too painful, and I’m not that much of a masochist.


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