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Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: PG (For Mild Thematic Elements and Brief Language)

Running Time: 90 minutes

Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Adam Garcia, Glenne Headly, Allison Pill and Carol Kane

Screenplay by: Gail Parent
Based on the book by: Dyan Sheldon

Directed by: Sara Sugarman

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Audio Commentary with Director Sara Sugarman, Writer Gail Parent, Producer Robert Shapiro and Producer Jerry Leider, "Confessions From The Set" Featurette, Deleted Scene, "That Girl" Music Video

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, English Closed Captions, THX-Certified, Scene Selection (12 Scenes)

Released: July 20th, 2004

 

 

Lola (AKA Mary) Steppe (Lindsay Lohan) is a teenage drama queen with dreams of being an actress. Needless to say, she's not happy when she's uprooted from New York City and is placed in suburban "Deadwood," New Jersey. Yet Lola's problems really begin when she begins a rivalry with Carla (Megan Fox), the school princess. Carla marks her territory to Lola, but things begin to get crazy when Lola wins the lead in the school play - an updated version of "Pygmalion" entitled "Eliza Rocks!" Soon Lola and her new best friend, Ella (Alison Pill) are trying to keep firm with Carla - and this involves going to a farewell concert for Lola and Ella's favorite rock band Sidarthur (and sneaking into the party after). But Lola has a knack for lying which soon catches up to her. Will Lola continue her drama, or will she learn that being yourself isn't so bad?

Anyone remember the early 90s and Disney's slate of live action films for family? Come on! "The Mighty Ducks" trilogy, "Heavyweights," "Iron Will," "The Big Green" and my personal favorite, the "Blank Check." Sure they were churning out family movies decades before that (quality ones too), but they certainly had quite the stride in the 90s (that point is arguable). All those movies may not have been the greatest or most memorable, but they were fun and enjoyable. And more importantly, there was a standard structure to them that worked - decent bits of humor, a big name actor or two (well, at least back then), child stars and stories that were fleshed out pretty well, and made sense. I think the last live action Disney family film I saw was "The Princess Diaries" (which I'm not a fan of), and after viewing "Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen" I really wonder if the state of Disney's live action films for families has grown to be pretty horrendous in the past few years. Sure there's a small profit to be had, but it seems like studio executives at Disney are shrinking the audiences for these movies and really dumbing them down. If this is a new trend for who knows why, it's not promising at all - "Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen" doesn't have much of a heart or much to say (but it thinks it does), and it's pretty disposable overall.

This is a movie that has many problems, and never comes together completely. All of Lola's random misadventures do tie into together and move the plot along - the only problem is that this is achieved in a lopsided and far from gradual manner. Not only does it feel rushed, but it makes Lola a somewhat inconsistent character. Lola does realize important things about life and the nature of people from the incidents she gets caught up in, and somehow what she learns just resonates and makes sense with her without real reason or explanation. I may be a bit harsh - this is a movie for children after all and I doubt any of them will have the same qualms as me - but if there was more of a structure to the protagonist, I probably would have found it more enjoyable.

I probably also would have found the movie more enjoyable if there was a lot more structure to the story - the film is often too random and needy, and there is never any kind of appropriate build-up. I found the climax to just pop up out of nowhere (and not much even happens in it), and the story's main conflicts have no meat to them - somehow there isn't much fretting, there is a complete lack of major tension and everything is resolved so easily. It's almost as if the movie is afraid to take the most basic risks, and just throws out what it needs to make this such a happy fantasy. Lola's delusions somehow always overwhelm the somewhat cynical, more-realistic Ella which is annoying since there is never really a clear contrast, nor gives the movie the emotional support it needs.

I don't know if it's the fault of the producers, director Sara Sugarman or screenwriter Gail Parent, but as I've been more or less hinting at, the film really lacks important details or any real kind of exposition - everything just sort of happens. It's true that suburban New Jersey is nothing like New York City, but instead of Lola complaining about it maybe the film could actually show us how they're different and what Lola specifically dreads (other than that New York City is a better outlet for acting). The initial meeting between Lola and Ella comes across as weird - it's strange how they get talking, and doesn't seem natural and realistic at all. But in mere moments, they're the best of friends. And then there's the Lola's love interest Sam - he pops up now and then, but he isn't even given a formal introduction. I'd love to Sam a one-dimensional character, but that's giving the movie too much credit - thanks to the poor integration, this character doesn't even constitute a half-dimension.

I'm not done yet. More background - AKA the truth - on Lola's parents would have been nice. I wanted to see more of her mother and her hardships (and was there a point to Lola having two sisters even?), and I certainly would like to know why Lola is such a drama queen in the first place. Is it just because she's one of those people who ALWAYS needs attention for no reason? Does it have something to do with the fact that her parents aren't together and she's looking for love? The film doesn't offer any insight at all. And why does everyone believe Carla when it seems nearly everyone hates her? There are never more than two people talking to her at a time for crying out loud - is she really that popular? While I don't know if the book was like this at all, somehow I have a feeling novelist Dyan Sheldon packed more into the story (actually I hear the movie and book are a bit different in some areas actually - besides, I don't spend my time reading tween girl literature).

Speaking of director Sara Sugarman, I have mixed feelings about her. I think there is some potential for her to be a interesting director - she certainly gives the film a great visual flair and a freeflowing energy. However, I think she needs to have more boundaries and not go overboard - the films comes across as too phony and flamboyant. Sugarman does use some interesting musical choices, but she uses songs in the film as a crutch - too many songs are used. These songs are supposed to replicate the emotions the characters are experiencing, but the film really lacks emotion and intrusitic feelings. The constant use of music is distracting, and it soon becomes amusing when Lumidee's one-hit wonder song "Uh-oh" is supposed to signal trouble.

While the film's performances can't ultimately salvage the film, it is one of those cases where the actors enhance things and often transcend the material they're given - if there was a different cast, this film would probably be much worse. Lindsay Lohan (who seems to have success with tween/teen films that also crossover to adults) shows yet again that she's a really natural talent, and she's really growing as an actress. It's a pretty frilly role for her, but she fills it well - she really nails Lola's overreacting and "there's always a way attitude." Her partner-in-crime Ella, played by Alison Pill, is simply fantastic and is yet another talented young actress to watch (I really mean it). There is a chemistry between Pill and Lohan, but Pill ends up calling on a number of expressions and really breathes life into a clichéd character - she's the absolute best thing about this movie. Pill is warm and funny, and her worrying and neurotic attitude is perfect - it comes across as realistic. Megan Fox does a good job as the school snob, and Adam Garcia is pretty fun if slightly over-the-top. I was really disappointed that the talented Glenne Headly is barely in the movie and is given nothing to do, but bless Carol Kane who gives the film's most fun and wackiest performance. She was definitely a great casting choice.

I bet there are plenty of young girls who enjoy this movie. I bet there are plenty who will want to see this movie no matter what. I'm not sure who will be able to stop these people, but if you can (that means you, parents and aunts and uncles and assorted family members and friends!) - please try your hardest. There are plenty of other great movies with female characters all ages can enjoy, so if you can avoid this - you'll be doing yourself a favor. Pardon me for sounding a bit overdramatic, but "Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen" is painful to sit through. Painful, awful, a mess, crazy, dumb... actually, I may have lost a few IQ points from watching this movie. OOOH! SNAP FROM ZACH! Maybe I'm trying to start a cat fight after all, like a real drama queen.

 

Given the movie's short running time and the fact there's only a limited amount of extras, Disney has wisely included a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer and 1.33:1 full screen transfer on the same disc (that way everybody is pleased). I ignored the full screen, so my comments pertain only to the THX-certified widescreen version (the full screen version is THX-certified as well). Somehow, this crap movie has gotten a great transfer (why did Disney give it THX-certification, exactly?). Other than some slight edge enhancement and portions of noise, everything else shines. The print used is spotless, fleshtones look natural, detail is great and the overall image is sharp. Colors are well saturated too and are pretty bold, and they don't bleed either - which is good since the movie uses a ton of colors, and they all get a chance to be seen appropriately. There is some great work here that you older, more-technical viewers of the movie will appreciate.

 

An English 5.1 Dolby Digital is the man sound mix for the disc (a French 5.1 Dolby Digital track is also on there as well) and while it does nothing wrong, it still is a bit underwhelming. Surprisingly, the film is pretty heavy with the front channels. The dialogue is clear and is always easy to hear, but there isn't much in the way of surrounds. I was personally expecting some power when it came to the boisterous arcade dancing sequence, the outside of the concert theater and the Sidarthur party, but the loud scenes - mainly those with tons of people - came across as really flat. The music goes into the speakers fine, but it's standard and never sounds really dynamic. In all, this mix just kind of levels off and is never really engaging, even though it should probably be more exciting at times. Subtitles in English and French are included, as well as English closed captions.

 

Disney hasn't loaded this one as a major special edition but has packed in a few supplements that are a bit standard, but just what you'd expect given the material. Starting things off is an Audio Commentary with Director Sara Sugarman, Writer Gail Parent, Producer Robert Shapiro and Producer Jerry Leider (only available on the widescreen version, and rightfully so). Let me just say that this commentary literally sounds weird - I don't know where and how this was recorded, but it sounds like these people were on a theater stage with poor acoustics. The film's audio also meshes in with the comments often, instead of being lowered down a notch, which is annoying. But as far as a commentary goes, it's pretty fun - I certainly liked it a lot better than the film itself. There is a lot of manic energy and joking atmosphere here which I liked (complete with some really offbeat topics), but there is still substantial information on how the film was made - right down to the little details. Shapiro and Leider seem like hilarious guys, and Sugarman is well-informed, relevant and even insightful. However, I could not stand Gail Parent - she comes across as annoying, nervous, cocky (somehow her importance gets highlighted a lot) and points out really obvious things ("Lindsay was wearing a 'I Love NY' shirt because she was so attached to the city!"). I doubt a lot of the movie's core fans will listen to this, but those with an interest in the work of the filmmakers should give it a listen. After listening I wish I could have liked their film more.

There's a three-minute Deleted Scene entitled "Eliza's Fantasy." No reason why it was cut (it is in non-anamorphic widescreen), but it's actually more of an alternate scene. I actually did like it since it's zany, but I suppose what was used in the movie fits better because it actually shows off Lola's talents (and Lohan's singing pipes). Speaking of Lohan singing, there's the "That Girl" Music Video. The song, featured in the movie, is kinda catchy - and of course the video uses clips from the movie and some predictable new footage.

Rounding it off is the featurette Confessions From The Set which lasts around six-and-a-half minutes. It's purely promotional - movie clips, on-the-set footage and your standard interviews with Shaprio, Leider, Sugarman (who has a crazy fashion sense), Lohan, Pill, Eli Marienthal (Sam), Megan Fox and even Carol Kane. Like the film itself, this featurette is all over the place - praise for the actors, the dancing sequences, themes of the movie... to be honest, I don't think it really sells the movie.

Oh, and you DVD-ROM users can register your DVD (as always with Disney).

 

"Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen" really isn't that great of a movie and its overall audience is fairly limited - parents will probably have a hard time sitting through it, and I can only imagine some pre-teen girls enjoying it. Even if the film has quality issues, the DVD does not boding a great widescreen transfer, slightly above-average 5.1 mix and a few extras. The package will probably appeal to fans of the movie and it's a good deal overall, but those youngsters (or sick perverts lusting for Ms. Lohan) who missed it in theaters can get by for a rental - this is no kiddie classic.