Fox // 2008 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // July 28th, 2008
Ashley Tisdale gets her video phone freak on!
Basically, Picture This! is a way to cash in on the High School Musical craze by casting one its stars in a television movie about, um...high school. It's also a way to update the typical teen comedy by using video cell phones as a central plot device. In essence, this one is all about gadgets and the teens who love them. Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical, High School Musical 2, and High School Musical 3) stars as Mandy, a girl who is fighting to date one of the popular boys in her socially divided school. The problem is she lives in the wrong neighborhood, she's not in the mean girls club, wears glasses, and has a really lame cell phone that doesn't shoot video. All her prayers are answered on her eighteenth birthday when her dad gets her contacts, a very cool video cell phone, and the boy she has a crush on invites her to a legendary party. Unfortunately, her not-so-trusting dad (Kevin Pollak, She's All That) grounds her, and she has to figure out a way to get to her big date. Mandy now has to lie to dad who is calling every 30 minutes on a video phone and demanding to see where she is. Plus the boy's current girlfriend is none too happy Mandy wants to date her guy, and she'll do anything to stop her, including using the vial of Marilyn Manson's blood she wears around her neck to cast spells. Our scrappy heroine must fight overprotective parents, food allergies, snooty girls, a riotous battle of the bands at a heavy metal club, and somebody wearing the same outfit. No fair guessing if she ends up with the boy or not.
The movie is a mix of moments from classic teen pictures such as Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Mean Girls, She's All That, and 10 Things I Hate About You. The issue is those movies are far better than this one, but I suppose this one might do if you're looking for a "teen flick" that's fluffy and fun. It's a girly fantasy where situations spiral out of control, but the girl always figures a way out. Central to the story are the video cell phones, and the idea is that having a fly wireless will make you cool. The project was made for television, but it looks fine and has high enough production values to feel cinematic. Director Stephen Herek makes everything feel similar to his former teen movie project, Don't Tell Mom the Baby-sitter's Dead. The performers are cute and perky, and they jump through all the hoops just fine. Ashley Tisdale is fun and funny in the lead role, and she's surrounded by veterans of teen television who all know how to pull this sort of picture off. The only problem is, it's a ridiculous script that never has one ounce of believability. I never bought the situations, and I don't think teens or preteens are dumb enough to see any of this as a true reflection of themselves. Can cell phones really make or break you this much? Are teens this reliant on high-tech gadgets for their social status? It feels like it was written by someone who sees teenagers as status-conscious gadget freaks who care far too much about technology in relation to social standing.
Sony's DVD package serves the film well, and fans will find plenty to keep them occupied. The image is fine, and colors are vibrant without any distortion or digital artifacts. The sound works well in conjunction with the dialogue and punchy soundtrack tunes. Extras include an amiable "making of feature" where the cast and crew talk about what attracted them to the project, and mainly that was the idea of doing a fairy tell with cell phones. Next up are "cell phone confessions" where the actors reveal secrets about what went on with them on the set. There are scene specific commentaries on certain sequences that the cast provides in cell phone text language. Next up is a 12-question trivia game about the movie. Finally there is a "making of" for the Pat Benatar song the girls perform at the battle of the bands sequence. All in all, it's a nice package of extras on a well-authored DVD.
You could do worse than Picture This!, but then again, you could do so much better. Teens who are fans of High School Musical may find this one fun to see since it features the same energy of that project, but it feels like an "also ran" from the word go. It's not bad for a TV movie, but it feels as disposable as the cell phones they make central to the story. Give it a few years, and this one will feel dated and hopelessly stuck in the era it was made. In the meantime, it does have some cute performances, and the actors do enough to make it passable as entertainment. Parents may have a hard time with the central messages, which include: you need technology to be a popular girl and lying to authority figures is okay. Fans of Ashley Tisdale should find it an all right movie to catch, and it serves as light fluffy fun between musical high school projects.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Making of Featurette
* Cell Phone Confessions
* Cell Phone Commentary
* Trivia Game
* Making of the Musical Sequence