A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Teen Musical - The Movie is a Christian-themed film with a lengthy musical-within-the-movie about Jesus. The film offers a positive portrayal of a diverse group of teenagers bonding over helping each other cope with serious problems like abusive or angry parents, bullying, self harm, and a father's death. They engage in healthy activities like singing and swimming, and in one scene they build a wood cross together. The film shifts tone toward the end when a man hits the main character, the teen psychologist Dr. Park, on the back of her head with a baseball bat, dragging her into a freezer, and leaving her for dead. (Spoiler alert: she dies, but medics are able to bring her back to life in a scene that could prove stressful for some viewers.) Female adults and teens engage in flirtatious talk about men and boys, and two adults, formerly a couple, flirt, hug, and kiss. Language is mild and includes "idiot," "Oh my God," and "Jesus."
What's the story?
A group of teenagers, some with serious personal battles, plan to spend their summer months hanging out at a local teen center, but the center's permanence is threatened when its federal funding is pulled in TEEN MUSICAL - THE MOVIE. Dr. Alexandra Park (Lili Kayy Park), the teen psychologist who runs the center, tries taking on freelance work to make ends meet, but the center is falling into deeper debt than she can manage. She decides, against her best friend's counsel, to call in her ex-boyfriend, a musical producer, for assistance. Together, they help the teens put on a musical about Jesus, which could be enough to save the center, and they rekindle their romance.
Is it any good?
Despite its positive depiction of teenagers and a Christian worldview that could resonate with some viewers, this movie is hard to watch. This is mostly due to technical flaws, like clumsy editing that sometimes cuts speakers off, and uneven sound from scene to scene. There are narrative problems as well, including sequences that wander needlessly far from the story at hand, like when Dr. Park takes temporary work as a kids' costumed birthday party entertainer, or a violent plot twist toward the end that abruptly changes the tone of the movie.
Other scenes in Teen Musical - The Movie are simply awkward. In one, Dr. Park seems to be hocking a book written by the filmmaker himself. In another, she's talking on a phone we can see has not yet dialed a number. In yet another, the psychologist complains about her thighs in a voiceover. Some of the teen actors feel more natural on screen than the adults, and their moment to shine comes in the musical they put on about Jesus, which is filmed at great length. The teens offer heartfelt performances, but that won't keep some viewers from fast-forwarding directly through to the end.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what aspects of Christianity are depicted in Teen Musical - The Movie. Do you have to be a Christian to enjoy this movie? Why or why not?
The teenagers find support from their peers and a psychologist as they face a variety of difficult problems. Who do you turn to for support when you need help?
Did you notice the sound quality varied in different scenes of this film? Why do you think that happens in filmmaking?
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