What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Frenemies paints an oversimplified picture of teen life and the complexity of its relationships, but the fact that it's headlined by multiple familiar faces from popular kids' shows like Shake It Up and A.N.T. Farm means it's bound to draw a young audience nonetheless. Content-wise, there's no reason kids can't tune in, and there are multiple opportunities to discuss responsible social relationships as they relate to popularity, bullying, and manipulating people's feelings. Ultimately kids won't miss out on the story's unmistakable positive messages about friendship, so there's some value to tuning in.
What's the story?
FRENEMIES is the story of a group of classmates whose relationships endure ups and downs as outside factors cause besties to turn against each other. Nestled in a substory about a pop culture/social media website created by two of the characters, the movie follows three unique relationships through rough patches that threaten to turn friends into enemies. First up is science whiz Jake (Nick Robinson), whose sudden infatuation with the school's popularity queen, Julianne (Stefanie Scott), edges out his best furry friend, who retaliates as only a dog can do. Jake's tomboyish classmate Savannah (Mary Mouser) gets her own dose of trouble when she switches places with her well-to-do look-alike, Emma (Mouser again), and the girls start shaking things up with each other's love interests. And BFFs Halley (Zendaya) and Avalon (Bella Thorne) put their relationship on the line to land a coveted editorial position with a publishing company that wants to take their website, Geekly Chic, to the big time. Ultimately each character must weigh friendship against his or her other desires and decide what matters most.
Is it any good?
Based on a novel by Alexa Young, Frenemies sets out to explore the complicated world of on-again, off-again teen relationships and to illustrate why friendship should top the value list. Does it accomplish this goal? Yes, but the movie's worthwhile messages about social priorities and individuality come courtesy of sanitized characters and an unrealistic plot. These teens aren't coping with relatable academic pressures, complex relationships, or worries about their future. Instead, 14-year-olds are spending time at school plotting to land a dream job in the grown-up world, flubbing their way through someone else's fencing lessons while playing the role of a look-alike pal, and trying to reason with a pouting pet. Sound familiar? Probably not, and it's a good bet your tweens will find it a little far-fetched as well.
That's not to say Frenemies doesn't have merit. Kids can't possibly reach the movie's end without gleaning some positive lessons about relating to others, but the story's glamorous presentation of teen life -- where even the "geeks" are gorgeous and cutting school for a big-time job interview bears no consequences -- won't ring true with seasoned tweens. In fact, the movie's bound to be best received among the younger tween set thanks to its fresh-faced, familiar stars, all of whom are veterans of series from Disney and its network partners. The bottom line? The content is fine for grade-schoolers, and your kids are sure to enjoy seeing some of their favorite stars take on new roles and team up for a fun musical number at the movie's end, but it's worth following up with a reality check to make sure kids know the difference between real life and the movies.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about friendship. How do your relationships with your friends compare to those among the characters? Have you ever encountered problems similar to theirs? How do you work through your disagreements?
Tweens: What does it mean to be popular? How is popularity determined? What role does it play among your peers? Are you conscious of your own "status"? Is it something that concerns you? In what ways can the Internet be used to influence popularity?
If your tweens have read the book that inspired Frenemies, you can talk about how the two compare. What changes were made for the movie? Was anything lost in the move to the screen? What, if anything, was improved over the book?