Stuck in the Suburbs

Movie review by
Stefan Pape, Common Sense Media
Stuck in the Suburbs Movie Poster Image
Clichéd Disney teen comedy explores downsides to fame.
  • NR
  • 2004
  • 76 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The movie's aim is to entertain not educate.

Positive Messages

The notion of young people discovering themselves and doing the right thing. The idea that happiness is a state of mind is explored and that fame is not all that it's made out to be.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Brittany is determined to leave her suburban home and seek adventure in the city. Both Brittany and Natasha are obsessed with Jordan Cahill, a pop star. Their happiness is dictated by him and they are often seen screaming together in unison, perpetuating a stereotype. While the young girls are generally respectful of their parents wishes, and focus on their school work, they do lie and hide things from them. They also hack into a cellphone and use it as leverage to get what they want. Jordan is a positive portrayal of a young celebrity, wanting to get back to his roots and working hard to fulfill his dreams.

Violence & Scariness

There are slapstick moments during chase sequences, such as when a character runs into a car and hurts their head. But any threat and subsequent damage is minimal.

Sexy Stuff
Language

Although there is no profanity, characters call each other words such as "creep," "pathetic," and "desperate" when arguing -- this causes a character to cry.

Consumerism

The notion of fame making somebody popular is explored. A pop star's status is heavily image based -- when they get a haircut, their fans are subsequently unhappy. These pressures and expectations cause them to secretly wish they had less money and fame so they could lead a more normal life.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stuck in the Suburbs is a harmless, yet dated teen comedy that delves into the life of a young girl with dreams of leaving behind her mundane life for a more exciting path. Though the movie does perpetuate stereotypes of young girls obsessing over male pop stars, there is a coming-of-age element, where the characters mature and understand the importance of friendship. They also learn to appreciate that happiness is not dictated by where you live, but who you fill your life with. The two leads -- Brittany (Danielle Panabaker) and Natasha (Brenda Song) -- do lie to and deceive their parents and others to get what they want. Brittany also ignores her old friends in favor of Natasha who she believes is cooler and therefore worth more to her. But conversely Jordan Cahill (Taran Killam) the pop star they adore, is down to earth and just wants a normal life. As well as humanizing celebrities, it also shows that there is a lot more to life than materialistic goods and fame. There is no swearing in the movie, but characters do behave cruelly to each other, which in one scene causes one to cry. But more than anything, the movie's message is the importance of friendship above anything else.

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What's the story?

STUCK IN THE SUBURBS tells the story of teenager Brittany (Danielle Panabaker) who dreams of one day meeting her idol, the pop star Jordan Cahill (Taran Killam). When Jordan comes to Brittany's suburban hometown to film his new music video -- together with her new friend at school, Natasha (Brenda Song) -- she tries to get a glimpse of her hero. But after Brittany is knocked off her feet by Jordan's entourage, she discovers that in the melee, her phone was accidentally switched with Jordan's.

Is it any good?

It may have characters who feel imprisoned in their tranquil, unexciting suburban life, yet what's more concerning is how this movie has managed to remain so stuck in time. It's a severely dated teen comedy, and that's not just a comment on the remarkable fashion styles from the time this movie was set. The narrative feels outdated and will struggle to appeal to the new generation of young audience members -- both technology and the means to which teens and tweens interact with their heroes has changed immeasurably since the movie's release in 2004. It's hard to be too critical however, as it knew its audience at the time, and played to them in an affectionate and charming manner.

Stuck in the Suburbs also deserves some praise for its positive messages around consumerism and materialism. Despite his fame and success, Jordan is shown to be down to earth and in touch with his roots, despite the extravagance and excess surrounding him. Yet the clichéd, corny montage sequences are laughable, and the dialogue really rather absurd. Ultimately, the movie hasn't any ideas above its station, it's just an unassuming comedy that can wile away the time. Though consider this more of a nostalgia trip for adults, rather than a fresh new experience for kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how fame is portrayed in Stuck in the Suburbs. How is Jordan's life different to what his record company presents it as being? What are the pros and cons to being famous? Would you like to be famous?

  • Brittany and Natasha obsess over a pop star. Who do you look up to and see as being an idol? What is it you admire about them? What is the difference between obsession and admiration?

  • Talk to your kids about the importance of friendship. Who are your best friends, and what qualities do you admire and appreciate most about them?

  • The movie shows that we don't need money and success to be happy. Do you agree with this? What free activities do you enjoy doing?

  • The characters dream of moving out of their suburban neighborhood to move to a city. Where would you like to live or study when you're older? Are you nervous or excited about that chapter in your life?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age movies

Themes & Topics

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