DAY 31: Lemonade Mouth

I will not attempt to deny that Lemonade Mouth is not an appealing name for people looking to watch a Disney Channel movie. However, looks, and ridiculous titles, can be deceiving, as is the case with this film. Originally a novel written by Mark Peter Hughes, Lemonade Mouth follows the lives of five teenagers at Mesa High School as they struggle with their own personal insecurities, struggles, and, in some cases, secrets. Needless to say, this is quite surprising for a Disney Channel movie, since the subject matter in most is – though somewhat deep, in rare cases – lighthearted and unmoving. Lemonade Mouth breaks out of the mould, so to speak, and gives us serious content and character development that makes the band mean something to us in the end, rather than just relying on popular music, heart shattering boy-girl relationships and drama to carry the plot.

At least, that’s what they were going for, anyway.

"Lemonade Mouth" singing their improvisational lay at the beginning of the movie

The five teenagers are certainly “a ragtag crew”, as they are called in the movie. There’s Olivia White (portrayed by Bridgit Mendler), a shy, clumsy, friendless individual suffering from

bereavement and shame (the death of her mother and imprisonment of her father, respectively); Stella Yamada (portrayed by Hayley Kiyoko), a rebellious, raucous and committed “rocker” whose parents are geniuses, and pay little heed to their “aberrant” daughter; Mohini Banjaree (portrayed by Naomi Scott), an Indian girl whose father is strict and expectant of her daughter’s utmost dedication to academic achievement; Charles Delgado (portrayed by Blake Michael), the brother of Mesa High School’s champion soccer player, Tommy Delgado, who is expected, by his parents, to take their eldest son’s place in the limelight on the field; and, finally, Wendell Gifford (portrayed by Adam Hicks), whose father, a widower, plans on marrying a woman much younger than him, to the resentment of his son, who doesn’t think it appropriate or acceptable.

And there aren’t any spoilers in that whole paragraph. We get most of this information in the first ten minutes of the movie.

This, in essence, establishes the foundation for the rest of the film thereafter. We see each of these characters develop in numerous ways, particularly through their reaction with one another in the band, and through “making their voice heard”.

A picture of one of the most beautiful, powerful scenes in the movie

In fact, the band acts as a sort of crucible for each of them, in which they are tested, battered, chiseled, beaten, and molded into entirely different people. Their friendship – the bonds, interwoven among one another – helps them stand against many challenges and sorrows, and gives them a crutch to lean on when they need it most. In particular, Olivia, combatting the shame of an incarcerated father and the sorrow of having lost a mother, needs their companionship the most, and is given the tender words and gentle embraces that she needs.

Olivia’s story was the most poignant, by far. I won’t tell you any more for fear that it will ruin it for you, but trust me when I say that, when you see it, it will be worth your while. If anything, watch the movie just to see her story, because it’s something beautiful that I have only seen Disney Channel accomplish one other time.

So, I liked the story. I liked the effort put into the plot. I liked the characters, and the changes they went through. In other words, it was deep; deeper, in fact, than Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

But each of these elements were set on the back burner and left to simmer out of sight before they were drawn out at various points in the movie, having not yet been fully cooked. Not enough time was dedicated to addressing the characters’ struggles to make them moving and real. Even Olivia’s, while still being moving (no lack of time could detract from her powerful story), was just not touched on enough. I was really disappointed! Here was a golden opportunity to flesh out these characters and their relationships with each other, to tell us the sad story of a hurting girl in need of comfort, and it was missed as if it was unimportant! I needed that extra time spent with Olivia. I needed more of those moments where she and Wendell grow to become better friends. I needed to see Olivia’s tears vanish in joy, and to see Wendell transform into a better person through his gentle love for his friend. But it just wasn’t there. There was one scene that had some of it (pictured above, to the left), and another that had a little more, but that was all!

**Pulls hair out in despair**

What we get in this movie, instead of true relationships, is the illusion of true relationships. We hear Stella talk about how the band had been great for her, and how it had helped everyone else, but we don’t actually see it. It just happens. One moment they’re depressed, and then they’re all better, and we’re told it was because of Lemonade Mouth. But they still set it all on the back burner! They just don’t elaborate enough. They fell into the cliches of Disney Channel movies, focusing on the shallow relationship between Mohini and the oh-so-charming Scott, and the secret love Charlie harbored for Mohini, more than they did the relationships and the characters. It just doesn’t work; we can’t be attached to characters who are getting involved with jerks like Scott, who are just in it to take advantage of the girls they’re dating. Ostensibly he changes in the end, but I didn’t believe it. The moment Mohini forgives him for flirting with another girl, he puts his hands on her face and leans in to kiss her. That’s all he cares about. I’m with Mohini’s dad on this one.

So, Lemonade Mouth didn’t do it for me. Almost, but not quite. I appreciated the content – the story, moving struggles of Olivia, and the changes that the characters undergo -, but the lack of time given to the good aspects of the story marred what could have been an excellent movie. And what happens in the end? Lemonade Mouth becomes a big hit, and plays in huge concerts that rival those of the illustrious Miley Cyrus. They succeed. But do they really? What have we seen happen to people who get involved in fame? Their lives are ruined. They grow obsessed with money, themselves, their self-image, and forget who they are – what’s really important. What friendships they might have established at the beginning of the movie, when they were “less famous” people, don’t matter at the end. They’re rock stars now – celebrities. They’re “living the dream”.

But the dream I saw in this movie was at the beginning, in the gentle words Wendell had for Olivia when tears ran down her face at the thought of her dead mother and imprisoned father. The true beauty of the movie lies therein: Not in Lemonade Mouth or in the members’ rise to stardom, but in their relationships. Their friendship needed to be taken off the back burner, and set up front, for everyone to see.

Three stars.

In Christ,

Ryan

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