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Cheetah Girls, The
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by Jaycie

"Cheetah-cceptable at best."
3 stars

Once upon a time, Disney provided tweenage girls with the ridiculous fantasy of being the pampered wife of a boring prince. Today, Disney provides tweenage girls with the ridiculous fantasy of being the flaky yet talented daughter of celebrities or superheroes. Somewhere between then and now, they did one better and encouraged tweenage girls to become famous in their own right, and there is no better example of this fleeting period than The Cheetah Girls.

Not that this, adapted from a series of terrible novels, isn't a tale as old as time itself: Kids nearly achieve their wildest dreams through sheer blind luck, only to realize that the entertainment industry is full of slimedogs. But it does have a certain charm that prevents me from putting it on my list of "movies I would never want my daughter to see," unlike, say, The Lizzie McGuire Movie. Or Ice Princess. Or Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. Or Hannah Montana: The Movie. It's a long list.

The Cheetah Girls - and before you ask, I did not make any of these names up - are Galleria (Raven-Symoné), Chanel (Adrienne Bailon), Dorinda (Sabrina Bryan), and Aquanette (Kiely Williams). Yes, Aquanette, but people call her Aqua because that's less embarrassing. Galleria is the putative front woman of the group, determined to get her paws on the recording studio time that is the grand prize of their school talent show. But the road to victory is paved with ~*DRAMA!*~ such as Chanel's increasingly absent mother (Lori Anne Alter), Dorinda's secret life as a poor adoptee who mops floors part-time, and Aqua's . . . fear of the subway. That's the closest thing to a storyline Williams gets, but I suppose that's the inevitable consequence of being the least attractive member of the less talented three-woman R&B act from whence she came.

Anyway, while the girls audition for performing arts teacher and ex-quasi-disco goddess Drinka Champane (Sandra Caldwell), producer/alumnus/douchebag extraordinaire Jackal Johnson (Vince Corazza) walks in and basically offers them a contract right then and there. Remember how I mentioned entertainment industry slimedogs? That happens for the rest of the movie, with the added twist of Galleria quickly becoming one herself, sparking more ~*DRAMA!*~ between the young starlets-in-waiting. But can the lure of fame and fortune stand in the way of the power of friendship and authenticity? (Spoiler alert: No. This is Disney.)

It was logical for Raven to be the lead because of her name recognition, earned back when people were still eager to be seen with Bill Cosby. But even before the slimedoggery enters the picture, her constant divatude gets old fast. Bailon is the best of the four main actresses, vocally and dramatically, likely because her character is afforded the closest thing to a personality. Bryan is unconvincing as an ashamed foster child, and her dramatic admission scene is cringe-worthy. And Williams, well, I have no idea why she's there; neither does director Oz Scott, apparently. Performance-wise, The Cheetah Girls is worth watching for Galleria's mother, Dorothea (Lynn Whitfield), who is fabulous: supportive but authoritative, effortlessly cool, too smart for her daughter to stay mad at her for long. I love her, I really do.

Speaking of performances, let's talk music, for that is the true purpose of this whole enterprise. It's OK. You've probably heard multiple versions of the same tunes on your local top 40 station. But whenever it's time for a song, Scott switches wildly from flat made-for-TV direction to slick music video direction, and he isn't always consistent with the latter. The closing number, "Cheetah Sisters," is the most awkward bit of musical shoehorning this side of High School Musical 2, and has by far the worst lyrics of the movie:

We are sisters
We stand together
We make up one big family though we don't look the same
Our spots are different
Different colors
We make each other stronger
That ain't ever gonna change

I didn't mention the overuse of the cheetah motif in the dialogue. The phrases "cheetah-licious" and "jiggy jungle" are used. More than once. They physically hurt.

Other than that, The Cheetah Girls is all right. Its message can be imparted better by Sesame Street, but the message isn't a bad one by any means. It has enough amusing moments not to be a complete turn-off for parents. It won't rot your daughter's brain. But just in case, make sure she sees Labyrinth first.

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originally posted: 01/17/16 11:37:35
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  DVD: 29-Jun-2004



Directed by
  Oz Scott

Written by
  Alison Taylor

  Adrienne Bailon
  Sabrina Bryan
  Kiely Williams
  Sandra Caldwell
  Lynn Whitfield

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