Cadet Kelly

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Cadet Kelly Movie Poster Image
Wholesome Hilary Duff movie has simple, positive messages.
  • NR
  • 2005
  • 101 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Lots of positive values work in this film. It deals with adjusting to new situations in a productive and comforting way, with a teen learning to accommodate both parents in a friendly divorce, making wise choices, and respecting others who initially may appear to be very different from ourselves. Teamwork is heavily promoted, as is creativity, and compromise.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Leading character is a bright, well-liked free spirit. Viewers have an opportunity to identify with her as she learns to adjust to major life changes in positive, empathetic, creative ways. Divorced parents are portrayed as ideal: conscientious, loving, aware of their child's needs, and decent to one another. Lots of ethnic diversity. The one villain in the piece, while one-dimensional, rigid, and cruel early on, learns the error of her ways.

Violence & Scariness

One suspenseful scene in which a principal character is stranded on a cliff. Several comic falls (in mud, off of a wall, a fish bowl overturns momentarily threatening the fish). A platoon leader pulls one of her "soldiers" by the ear.

Sexy Stuff

Heroine is constantly called a "maggot" by her team leader.


A prominent display of Isis Cosmeceuticals

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Cadet Kelly is a wholesome TV movie originally made for The Disney Channel. It's heavy on messages, cute teens, easy resolutions, and stars girl favorite Hilary Duff as a budding diva. The film's core subjects -- making necessary life adjustments, parenting, divorce, and teen rivalry -- are all dealt with gently and with humor. While it encourages the heroine to find her own path and develop her own strengths, it also advocates teamwork and compromise. A few pratfalls (mostly in a comic depiction of military training), a suspenseful moment in which the heroine must risk her safety for another, and some initial mean behavior by a team leader (Cadet Kelly is continually called "maggot") provide the action and physical conflict. Generally, middle grade girls through young teens will probably enjoy this predictable, safe family fare.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 14-year-old Written byrainbow p. June 13, 2017
Adult Written byMargert-jerry August 16, 2014
I found "Kelly" to be very unpleasant, she continuously talked back and was very rude to her superiors, and complained about the military school she w... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byTRIPLELLL May 31, 2016
For a Disney original movie, there are some genuine life lessons. This movie is good for all ages, but probably best for 6+ in just understanding what's ha... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byMaddiehamel June 8, 2021

Good movie

This movie is funny! This movie is for all ages!

What's the story?

Close with both loving parents after their amicable divorce, adorable and popular Kelly Collins (a young Hilary Duff fresh from Lizzie McGuire success) is delighted that her mom has found a new love. Delighted, that is, until she discovers that her mom's new marriage means they're moving from New York City and she'll have to attend George Washington Military Academy where her stepdad is the new commander! In typical fish-out-of-water form, free-spirit Kelly finds out what it means to be a disciplined team player, a true friend, and a caring step-daughter. Her unexpected adventures at the new high school find her in a heated rivalry with her platoon leader (Christy Romano), a mild flirtation with a cute classmate (Shane Ashmore), and with a chance to "strut her stuff" as a creative force behind the school's competitive drill team. And finally, what really launches Kelly toward maturity is a life-and-death crisis that forces her to use her newly-acquired skills as a junior member of the armed forces.

Is it any good?

Strictly run-of-the-mill story and production here -- always predictable, with so-so acting, one-dimensional characters, and very little relationship to the reality of military school. But for kids, especially girls desperate for female heroes and role models, it's bound to be enjoyable and provide some worthy messages. Who wouldn't want to identify with the sparkly teen whom easily wins over friends and vanquishes her enemies with a smile?

The movie's gentle, positive portrayal of a divorce that works well for everyone involved (skin-deep though it may be) is a pleasant change from the usual. Generally, it's a nice movie for girls to share: wholesome, fun, with lots of opportunity to root for an engaging teen.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about popular themes in kids movies. Moving and a change of schools is a favorite theme of movies for kids and teens. What did Kelly learn about herself from the move to military school? How can change be a positive force in a person's life? Think of a situation in which you had to make a change. What did you learn from it?

  • Why did Kelly's parents' divorce work when so many others don't? What qualities did the filmmakers portray as necessary for maintaining a good relationship for all of the parties involved? What did Kelly do to help them?

  • Captain Stone is the movie's villain. Why do you think she was so threatened by Kelly?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love tween-friendly stories

Themes & Topics

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