Not only for helping launch the careers of erstwhile Mouseketeers Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera has the Disney Channel proven enormously successful at peddling impeccably groomed, smoothly packaged, sexually non-threatening pre-teens. Miley Cyrus (pre-salvia and stripper pole) and any number of other entertainers have cut their teeth on peppy and demonstrative sitcoms that peddle cuddly pat-drama fantasies and occupy the exact opposite end of the spectrum that shows like Beverly Hills, 90210 and Gossip Girl did and now do. Those series have the effect of pulling along pre-pubescent adolescents into teenage drama prematurely, while a lot of Disney series and made-for-TV movies aim to have a dampening or delaying impact. Diff’rent strokes, you know?
Geek Charming‘s story charts Dylan (Modern Family‘s Sarah Hyland), a well-off girl who meets cute with A/V wallflower Josh (Matt Prokop) when he rescues her expensive handbag from a mall fountain, and subsequently agrees to be the subject of his new documentary. Ahh, though, therein lies the rub. While Sarah views this as just another cool and important piece of publicity and brand extension that will benefit her campaign for the local title of “Blossom Queen,” Josh is out to craft a hard-hitting look at popularity. As he gets to know her more and Sarah drops her guard a bit, Josh sees a girl he believes to be more interesting than the facade she’s crafted. Will he be able to convince her to let him show that girl to the world, however?
Scripted by Elizabeth Hackett and Hilary Galanoy, and directed by Jeffrey Hornaday, Geek Charming is a light and fluffy piece of entertainment, an inoffensive showcase for its onscreen talent and below-the-line artisans as well, with its colorful costuming and set design. Think of one of the conflicts in Reality Bites — when Winona Ryder’s character finds her video work compromised by Ben Stiller’s corporate jockey — and put a slight spin on that, cross-pollinate it with High School Musical, subtract songs, add feel-good moralizing, romantic myopia and artificial sweetener of your choice, then serve chilled. It’s a snore for anyone over 18, really, but Hyland and Prokop are attractive and engaging enough to keep things moving along and interesting for the movie’s intended audience.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case with a sleeve printed on recycled paper and in turn stored in a cardboard slipcover, Geek Charming comes to DVD in two different packagings, the best being a two-disc combo set which also includes 10 bonus episodes selected from over three seasons’ worth of the Disney Channel show Shake It Up, as well as a pair of matching little charms, which seem like an innocuous throw-in aimed at the tween girl demographic. The movie itself is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, with consistent colors and no edge enhancement or grain issues, and a Dolby digital 2.0 stereo mix. If you’re expecting a hard-hitting behind-the-scenes expose on Hollywood entertainment production or cast interviews about the nuances of their characters, however, you’re looking in the wrong spot, mates. C (Movie) C+ (Disc)