Judge Adam Arseneau is here to tell you—run away!
Can Louanna Lee save Count Gore's nephew from extortionists??
Louanna Lee is kind of like an indie version of Hannah Montana, if Hannah Montana was a Real Person, and not a manufactured commodity sold by the Disney Channel. The difference here is that Louanna Lee is a manufactured commodity sold via her website. The seventeen-year-old Baltimore County native discovered at an early age she had a passion for singing, and has been in and out of recording studios since she was a kid. She sells her CDs from her website and cobbles together her own local cable access television show, Adventures of Louanna Lee. Hey, the formula worked for Miley Cyrus—why not Louanna?
"Why not Louanna" becomes immediately apparent within five seconds of turning on Adventures of Louanna Lee: I'm Here to Tell You. The show is an exercise in low-budget banality: bad puns, silly jokes, and preposterously bad acting. To put it more succinctly, my wife (a horrified look upon her face) remarked that her parents must be extremely wealthy. I assure you, my wife is a saintly woman, and not normally prone to such harsh judgments—so it speaks volumes here.
Louanna Lee's mother (Leanna Chamish) gets a letter from Count Gore (Dick Dyszel), the host of a local cable access TV show (with a kitschy vibe somewhere between The Hilarious House of Frightenstein and a John Waters film), inviting the family to a taping. Unfortunately, the Count's nephew (Will Haza) is up to his eyeballs in debt with sleazy loan sharks. When Louanna tries to help out, she gets caught up in a crazy adventure!
Low-budget cable access shows about teenage adventures? With singing? To say this isn't my cup of tea would be a raging understatement. A cup of arsenic would be more my cup of tea than Adventures of Louanna Lee. The jerk in me feels kind of bad for Louanna. She is sort of cute, I guess. She can sort of sing, in a "cut from the second round of American Idol" sort of way. She can act, in the most technical sense of the word, in that she can recite her lines without messing them up. She does all of these things well enough to avoid hilarious blowback and ridicule from the world at large, but not well enough to actually be popular at them.
All joking aside, the quality simply isn't here. The songs are sappy, overproduced nonsense that sound like (surprise!) something you would watch on YouTube—which you can do, if you so desire, because Louanna Lee has plenty of content uploaded for your enjoyment. The acting across the board is embarrassingly rough. The jokes are lame. At the end of the day, Louanna Lee brings little originality or innovation to the genre. Compared to the stable of fresh-faced teens unleashed by the Disney Channel, with glossy production values and slightly less onerous jokes, there simply is no contest.
Since it's a low-budget cable access kind of show, one can easily forgive the lack of shine, but the technical chops of Adventures of Louanna Lee: I'm Here to Tell You are actually a selling point. With a shooting budget approximately that of a mid-sized automobile, the DVD looks pleasantly respectable—solid colors, decent black levels, and a respectable amount of detail. Whoever shot this got themselves a decent camera. Audio is a bit weaker, with some tinny vocal recordings and strange environmental noises now and again, but it gets the job done well enough.
As for extras, we get more than we could ever hope for, or want. Four music videos, "Break It to Me Gently," "Lovin' Fool," "I'm Here to Tell You," and "Will You Be There" remind audiences that this DVD serves as a walking commercial to sell Louanna Lee merchandise and CDs, and little else. In addition, we get some preview trailers, a stills gallery, a screen test, a creature featurette, and a blooper reel.
Yes, Adventures of Louanna Lee feels every inch like a vanity project funded by an overenthusiastic father who refuses to believe his daughter is anything but a superstar, but even a cold heartless bastard like myself can appreciate a good DIY spirit. By all accounts, Louanna Lee is a normal, well-adjusted seventeen-year-old, a cheerleader at her Catholic high school who works part-time in a fudge shop. She records her own albums and showcases her own television show on public access cable channels in her hometown outside Baltimore. Through the Internet, her videos and songs are reaching wider audiences. Google it, lest ye doubt the reach; the girl has put some serious work into self-promotion. It is all very admirable, in a lame sort of way.
Filmmaking is filmmaking, even the self-indulgent variety. If nothing else, I can admire that about Louanna Lee. I just can't recommend her to anyone. Stick to the Disney Channel, all you pre-teens.
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