A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Introduces the arts of singing and dancing and what it takes to become a performer.
Be true to yourself. Don't give up when things get hard.
Positive Role Models
Each of the main characters has to overcome adversity to accomplish their goals. Despite competing for a limited number of spots, the main characters want each other to succeed, and they do things to help one another. One girl in particular goes against typical gender stereotypes and is fearless in her pursuit of becoming a dancer. Multiple kids have to overcome their parents' expectations to be true to themselves.
The cast is racially diverse. One minor character is in a wheelchair. A very sterotypical portrayal of a kid from a rural background.
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Violence & Scariness
One student trying out is a social media star who is verbally hostile to the other students throughout the movie. She has a funny accident that eventually silences her but she never faces any true consequences.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A diary is read aloud in which one student fantasizes about having his first kiss with another student. Some mildly suggestive dancing and song lyrics: "You want a taste but can't take the pepper." One short kiss.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that California Dreaming is a musical from producer Simon Fuller (American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance) and Grammy Award-winning songwriter and producer Ryan Tedder. It centers on a small group of kids (including Liv Simone of Raven's Home and Max Finchman of Invasion) auditioning to attend an elite performing arts boarding school. The main characters are a supportive and talented bunch who each have to overcome some adversity to gain admittance. One obstacle is Mandy, a narcissistic social media star who hurls insults and reads someone's diary aloud to the other students. She is eventually silenced by a silly accident but no true consequences are ever shown for her behavior. Many of the students and school administrators, as well as a revered music producer, are people of color but there is also a very sterotypical portrayal of a kid from a rural background. There are some mildly suggestive dances and song lyrics, as well as one short kiss. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The positive messages in this musical can't overcome its lack of catchy music or its dull plot twists. Despite the pedigree of its producers, California Dreaming just isn't all that entertaining. Parents will appreciate the lessons in adversity, as characters have to overcome such setbacks as stage fright and having goals that conflict with their parents' wishes. They'll also like how the teens support each other despite the limited numbers of spots for the school. Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot here for kids to love. The plot lines and dialogue are pretty basic, as are the songs and dancing. Add to that the lack of comedy and this special, which is actually a pilot episode of a TV series that was never greenlit, isn't worth your time.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.