A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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Parents need to know that Cadet Kelly is a wholesome TV movie originally made for The Disney Channel.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.
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?
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love tween-friendly stories
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.