SPOILER ALERT – I will be spoiling parts of Teen Beach Movie during this review, so if you haven’t seen it yet, go now!
Teen Beach Movie is clearly not marketed towards me. I’m a couple decades removed from my teen years, but having said that, I loved this Disney Channel Original Movie! As I write this, I am watching it for the fourth time in the last eight days if that tells you anything. And I already own the soundtrack and have played it on repeat more than a few times. As one who loves classic films and the surf culture of the 1960s, I am not at all surprised I love this. I am just glad it didn’t disappoint as the movie premiere has been on my calendar for months.
The story of Teen Beach Movie is that of two teens, Mackenzie “Mack” (Maia Mitchell) and Brady (Ross Lynch), who love to surf. They are at the end of their summertime romance thanks to a promise Mack made to her aunt years ago when her mom passed away. Mack must now leave the beach where she has lived with her grandfather and his surfboard shop, as well as Brady to head “back east” to go to a prestigious prep school for the rest of high school. This sets up the initial conflict between Brady and Mack that will be carried throughout the rest of the movie when Mack breaks off their relationship since she is moving.
Teen Beach Movie is dedicated to Annette Funicello who passed away recently. This is a perfectly fitting tribute to the Disney Legend and star of such fun films like Beach Blanket Bingo from the early to mid 1960s. One of Brady’s favorite films, Wet Side Story, is reminiscent of a classic Frankie (Avalon) and Annette beach movie. It takes place in 1962 and is a fun musical that is centered around a conflict between the surfers and bikers and a love story that brings them together. Mack and Brady soon find themselves closer to the movie than they’d ever imagined.
On the day Mack is supposed to leave with her aunt to go to school, the waves are supposed to be epic, once in a lifetime 30-40ft ones that most surfers only dream of. Before her flight Mack decides to try to catch one last wave. Brady shows up to support Mack, despite the fact she broke up with him, knowing full well she wouldn’t leave without trying to take advantage of the historic surf conditions. While Mack is trying to catch a huge wave her grandfather and Brady notice a nasty storm approaching and red flags being waved by the lifeguards. Mack ignores the warnings and stays out to try to catch the big one. Brady charges after her on a jetski to try to save her, but she insists she doesn’t need saving, and he has now ruined her chance of catching the wave. They both go under the surf after she wipes out.
The next scene of Teen Beach Movie finds Mack and Brady in a sunny beach scene with calm surf. As they walk to the shore, Mack fist notices something is amiss. Singing teen surfers cause Mack to think they may have died and ended up in a musical. Soon after they realize they have somehow been transported into the world of Wet Side Story! Brady couldn’t be more thrilled and jumps right in to have fun in one of his favorite movies. Mack is more reluctant to simply embrace their time/space travel. This is done with quite a bit of humor as Brady knows all the words and choreography while Mack is definitely a fish out of water. I love Maia Mitchell’s comedic timing and performance throughout the Teen Beach Movie, but it is especially showcased here and during her performance later in Can’t Stop Singing.
I won’t go through the entire plot, but I will say when I watched it through a few times, that Teen Beach Movie was definitely inspired by some of my favorite films. The time travel elements are similar to those in Back to the Future along with things out of time disappearing. The obvious correlation is made between Wet Side Story and West Side Story. Substitute the Jets and the Sharks for the surfers and the biker gang called the Rodents. Much like West Side Story, the boy leader on one side of the feud falls for (or at least is supposed to) a girl on the other side who is the sister of the rival’s leader. Throw in some elements of Grease and Pleasantville, mix together with Beach Blanket Bingo and a little bit of a zany Scooby Doo plot, and you’ve got Teen Beach Movie.
To their credit, I think the kids acting in the movie do a fantastic job playing homage to the days of old. The costumes and sets of Teen Beach Movie are colorful and fun and everything summer should be. I love how the comedy is easily accessible to those of all ages. There isn’t anything in the movie that made me feel the least bit uncomfortable about watching it with a seven year old. The choreography feels much more advanced than that found in another one of my favorite Disney Channel Original Movies, High School Musical. I especially love the songs and already have the Teen Beach Movie soundtrack on my phone! They feel genuine and representative of the time in which the movie is supposed to be set. I am hard pressed to pick favorites, but I love Surf Crazy and Can’t Stop Singing … and Fallin For Ya and Like Me. Okay, I’ll stop.
Back to Teen Beach Movie … with Mack and Brady trapped in Wet Side Story in 1962, they must find a way to get back to the present. Mack is definitely more motivated to get back to the future and to keep her promise to her deceased mom by going to private school. Brady is fine staying put and just wants to enjoy the moment, but realizes how important it is to Mack and decides it is best to try to get back home. Hilarity ensues when Mack and Brady’s presence interferes with the love story between leads Tanner of the surfers and Lela of the bikers. While they try to get things back on track, the kids get to enjoy a few days in the movie world.
Part of what Mack struggles with most in the past is the role girls played in 1962 compared to what she is used to for gender roles in 2013. As she tries to question the paradigm that everyone else in the movie embraces as the status quo, she inadvertently helps Lela discover that there is more to life than just baking pies for the boys. There are definite feminist undertones to Teen Beach Movie and Mack’s character in particular, but it is to be expected with the culture shock of taking a teen from the 21st century and putting her in pre-feminist movement mid-century America. I think they handled it well and with comedy. In the end it turns out Mack learns as much from Lela as she teaches her new friend. Lela learns it is okay to surf like a boy and to know the mechanics of motorcycles. Mack discovers she won’t dishonor her mom’s memory by following her heart and staying at the beach with Brady instead of going to private school.
All in all Teen Beach Movie is a ton of fun, has great song and dance numbers, action, romance and most of all comedy. The lead characters of Mack and Lela are the most dynamic I think, but even some of the more two dimensional background characters are enjoyable. I cannot get enough of it! It is staying on my dvr for a while until I can get to the store to buy it on dvd. As I mentioned, the soundtrack is already available as well and debuted at #8 on the Billboard 200 chart and was the number 1 soundtrack and children’s album according to Marketwatch. As I write this, the soundtrack is currently the number 3 selling album on iTunes. USA Today reported that Teen Beach Movie had over 8.4 million viewers for its premiere here. You can bet I will be watching as the dance along edition airs too. I’ve already seen the regular version three times and the sing along edition. Teen Beach Movie is one that I can literally watch over and over again and it is right up there with High School Musical as one of my favorite DCOMs of all time.
Have you seen Teen Beach Movie yet? What did you think? Who were your favorite characters? What is your favorite song? Make sure you watch all the way to the end for some hilarious outtakes postcredits.
Check out our previous post here about Teen Beach Movie and the dance party at Typhoon Lagoon where Shelley got to meet several of the actors from the movie!Follow us for more updates: