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What if only one star can shine?
Based on Deborah Gregory's numerous novels for adolescent girls, The Cheetah Girls is a series of made-for-television movies produced by Disney about a girl group quartet on the hunt for stardom. The first two films in the series starred Raven-Symoné (The Cosby Show's version of Cousin Oliver) as head Cheetah, Galleria Garibaldi. But the singer-actress bailed on Cheetah Girls: One World, leaving a trio of lesser stars. Is the Cheetah magic gone? (And did I really just type that sentence?)
As the movie opens, the Cheetah Girls are on the rocks after Galleria left the group to attend Cambridge. On the verge of giving up "the Cheetah dream," Chanel (Adrienne Bailon), Dorinda (Sabrina Bryan), and Aquanetta (Kiely Williams) are offered a chance to audition for a big-budget Bollywood musical. Once the group arrives in India, they learn that the director's uncle (Roshan Seth, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), who is financing the film, doesn't want to cast the entire band but wants the girls to compete against one another for the movie's starring role. The Cheetahs agree to proceed with the auditions, vowing to be good sports and let the best girl win. But group cohesion is endangered when they each get the wrong idea about Dorinda's private dance lessons with the movie's star, Chanel's romance with the director, and Aqua's tech support/maharaja boyfriend's offer to allow the movie to be shot in his palace provided Aqua gets the lead.
Cheetah Girls: One World is a sickeningly sweet concoction of bubble gum pop, make-up, hairspray, giggling, girl talk, dance battles, and semi-androgynous boys who make girls who go for semi-androgynous boys swoon by doing stuff like taking off their motorcycle helmets and shaking out their bouffants in slow motion. The movie is just what the doctor ordered, provided the doctor is a tween girl who'd love to listen to Britney Spears but isn't allowed to because her parents think Brit's a slut. For anyone not in that narrow but sizable demographic, watching the flick is akin to being trapped for 90 minutes in a Claire's boutique—it's hell on Earth, in other words.
But let's pretend for a moment that you are a tween girl. In that case, Cheetah Girls: One World is an entertaining little musical—not as entertaining as the first two entries in the series, I'm guessing (I haven't seen either), but still plenty of teenie-bopper fun. Like most musicals, the movie's plot is a predictable blend of corny romance and light character conflict. People burst into carefully arranged and choreographed song and dance numbers at times and in places that would be entirely inappropriate in the real world. In other words, it has all of the genre conventions that make musicals fun. It ain't Fiddler on the Roof (heck, it ain't even Mamma Mia!), but young teens and kids on the verge of teendom will dig it. The movie even has something of a moral for young women, I guess: Don't let a boys' cuteness wreck your female friendships or get in the way of your dreams. It's not a profound moral, but it is age-appropriate.
Unfortunately, Cheetah Girls: One World looks surprisingly mediocre on DVD. Detail is slightly soft throughout; reds and fuchsias bleed a bit during brightly lighted sequences; and warmly lighted sequences are muddier and grainier than they should be. On the plus side, the presentation is 1.78:1 widescreen, enhanced for widescreen displays.
The Dolby 5.1 audio presentation is better than the video. There's no gunfire or explosions (unfortunately) to make your system thunder, but the songs are given a spacious mix. They sound great. Dialogue and other effects are clean and flawless.
The version of One World on this DVD has been slightly expanded from the broadcast presentation in order to include a new musical number, "Feels Like Love." A fun facts track contains trivia about the movie. A rock-along mode offers a subtitle option with only the songs' lyrics. There's also a two-and-a-half minute blooper reel, and music videos for "One World," "Cheetah Love," and "Dance Me If You Can."
The movie features the following Cheetah Girls' songs:
• "Cheetah Love"
Is Cheetah Girls: One World a good movie? No. Will young girls love it? Yes. And isn't that point?
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