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Featured DVD Review: Radio Rebel

September 6th, 2012

Radio Rebel - Buy from Amazon

Radio Rebel is the latest Disney Channel Original Movie. The network has made some very good movies in the past, movies that have helped launch careers. It has also made some regrettable movies that most people involved would like to forget. What end of the spectrum is this film closer to? And if the movie is worth watching, is the DVD worth owning?

The Show

Debby Ryan stars as Tara Adams, a typical, but shy, student at Lincoln Bay High School. Shy is an understatement. When called up to write a suggestion in front of the class, all she can do is scribble a wiggly line before having a major panic attack. Lincoln Bay High School is also rather typical with your usual cliques, nerds, jocks, queen bees, etc. The only thing that really stands out with this school is Radio Rebel, a pirate radio D.J., who recently revealed she goes to that school. Tara's BFF, Audrey (Sarena Parmar), is a huge fan of the show, but nothing compared to Barry (Iain Belcher) and Larry (Rowen Kahn), twins who are obsessed to the point of mental illness. Her friends take Radio Rebel's lessons on being yourself and tearing down the status quo to heart, especially Audrey, who tries to talk to the school's queen bee, Stacy (Merritt Patterson). Stacy loves the status quo. Why wouldn't she? She's at the top of the social ladder. When Audrey talks to her, she more than shut her down, she gets her in trouble with the principal, Principal Moreno (Nancy Robertson), who seems to bow down to Stacy, while disliking the rebellious Radio Rebel.

Meanwhile, Stacy is looking for a replacement boyfriend and has her eyes on Gavin (Adam DiMarco), who is a member of the hottest band in school, The Two Gs. Stacy doesn't really know much about him, just that he's popular and that will help her win Prom Queen. Tara has had a secret crush on him for years and years and years, but she is way to shy to talk to him. This could be a problem as they've been assigned to work together on a scene for Drama class... with Stacy as their director.

Tara's home life is a little awkward. Her mother, Delilah (April Telek), recently married Rob (Martin Cummins), who is the manager of a local radio station. Tara and Rob haven't exactly bonded. It's not like they dislike each other, it's just that they haven't found a lot of common ground. When Rob hears about Radio Rebel from one of his DJs, Cami Q (Mercedes de la Zerda), he mentions to his wife that he would like to hire Radio Rebel for his station. His wife, suggests maybe he could talk to Tara about Radio Rebel and get a teenager's opinion. Also, it would give the pair time to bond. However, not only does Tara know about Radio Rebel, as Rob learns, she is Radio Rebel. Tara is worried that her step-father will freak out that she's been doing a pirate radio station, but he's excited. He's so excited he hires her on the spot.

This could be a dream come true for Tara, or a nightmare. Doing a radio show online as a hobby is one thing, doing it professionally where there are real consequences if she fails is another. And she can't even confide in her best friend, because she has to keep the Radio Rebel thing secret. She gets a last minute pep talk from Cami Q, which really helps calm her nerves, before a sterling start to her radio career. This actually helps her confidence in real life and she's able to talk to Gavin, both as part of her project and then in more social settings. Of course, this doesn't sit well with Stacy. Plus, the growing popularity of Radio Rebel has become a problem for Principal Moreno, who cracks down on people listening to her program during school hours and vows to figure out who Radio Rebel really is.

Radio Rebel doesn't break a whole lot of new ground. In fact, it bears more than a little similarity to Lemonade Mouth, a film I previously reviewed. Like I said before, the predictability likely won't be too big of an issue for the target audience. And let's face it, having kids hear the message that it is okay to be yourself over and over again isn't a bad thing. So the film can't rely on originality, but that doesn't mean it is a write-off. In fact, it thrives thanks to the charm of its star, Debby Ryan, who is able to portray both the crippling shyness and the growing confidence in a very believable way. She's clearly being groomed to be the next big Disney star and while I don't know if that will happen, she has what it takes to lead a film like this.

The Extras

There are quite a lot of extras on the DVD, starting with a six-minute making of featurette. The cast spends three minutes talking about their prom experiences. There is also a three-minute featurette on the music. Debby Ryan is the focus of a two-minute featurette and a two-minute featurette on the Red Carpet at the show's premiere. There are two minutes of deleted scenes and eight minutes of outtakes. And finally, there is a music video. Granted, most of the extras are rather small, but it adds up.

The Verdict

I was starting to think Radio Rebel was cursed. Due to a clerical error, I was charged $22 in customs and duties, which is more than it costs to buy new. The DVD arrived so late that the window to get the review into the studio was closed. This meant it was a lower priority than DVDs that arrived on time or just a little late. The previous two times I started to watch it, I was flooded with DVDs that I needed to review right away. This time it was three full-season TV on DVD releases that arrived late. But I finally got the review done. Was it worth all of that? I am outside the target audience and I have seen way more films with a similar message than the actual target will have seen, but even I can recognize the obvious charm of the lead actress and I'm very sure the target audience will want to watch and re-watch the movie. Add in better than expected extras and it is worth picking up.

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