A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, like High School Musical before it, Teen Beach Movie is a marketing conglomerate designed to sell not just the movie, but also the extensive line of clothing, home decor, accessories, and, of course, a soundtrack associated with it. Tweens will flock to this highly promoted movie, thanks in part to their familiarity with stars like Ross Lynch, who hail from other Disney projects, and they won't be disappointed in the story's entertaining blend of nostalgia, comedy, and sweet teen romance. For their part, parents will be pleased with the movie's worry-free family friendly story that also sends wholesome messages about individuality, self-awareness, and positive relationships.
What's the story?
As summer winds down, surfers Brady (Ross Lynch) and McKenzie (Maia Mitchell) are determined to make the most of every last wave, but a bitter reality sets in when McKenzie's aunt arrives to usher her off to an exclusive prep school that will chart a new course for her future. Hoping to catch one last magical moment, McKenzie attempts to ride a monster wave, but she and Brady find themselves transported back in time and into the plot of his favorite beach-set movie, "Wet Side Story." Suddenly they’re caught in the middle of a turf war between surfers and bikers and inadvertently disrupt the romantic plot between stars Lela (Grace Phipps) and Tanner (Garrett Clayton), making themselves the objects of their affection. Desperate to find a way home, Brady and McKenzie try to redirect Lela's and Tanner's advances toward each other, thwart the plans of a couple of bumbling villains, and smooth over the disagreements between the rivaling gangs on the beach –- all while sidestepping breakout song-and-dance numbers in this melodious musical.
Is it any good?
TEEN BEACH MOVIE does more than pay homage to beach-party classics; it re-creates one into which it can drop modern-day characters and watch the fun begin. And begin it does, thanks to crafty writing and charismatic stars who light up the screen from the get-go. It's hard to pick a favorite between Brady's childish glee over partaking in his beloved movie plot and McKenzie's comical exploitations of classic movie cliches. The push-and-pull between the two is a delightful dynamic, setting the tone for other fantastic character interplays and some entertaining -– if predictably sanitized -– turns of events. Add to that a couple of bumbling villains with an ill-fated evil plot, and toe-tapping musical numbers aplenty, and you've got a story guaranteed to delight.
There's no doubt Disney knows how to design a quality product, but Teen Beach Movie also illustrates how adept the company is at marketing those products. Reassigning established stars ensures a pool of existing fans; tying the brand name to everything from bedding to lunch boxes promises it stays in the public eye; and linking it to a soundtrack of brand-new songs yields multiple platforms on which today's tweens can make it part of their vernacular. Happily, though, this is the only concern in an otherwise delightful offering for tweens, and it doesn’t waste the opportunity to promote some great messages about listening to your heart, respecting others, and being true to your individuality.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether this is an accurate portrayal of teen life. Do you find Brady and McKenzie's relationship realistic? What challenges do they face? How might you cope with them in a different way?
Tweens: Have you ever been in a situation that called for you to stand up to your peers? Why is that hard to do? How do you handle peer pressure?
Talk to your kids about how the media influences us. Prior to seeing this movie, how often did you see it promoted? Did that make you want to watch it? How do advertisements change our buying habits?
- On DVD or streaming: July 30, 2013
- Cast: Grace Phipps, Maia Mitchell, Ross Lynch
- Director: Jeffrey Hornaday
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, High School, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
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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.