Judge Joel Pearce wishes he could zap this movie into perpetual detention.
Well, Watch it and weep, anyway.
I've never cared much for direct-to-video Disney teeniebopper movies, and I even often take issue with their theatrical movies aiming at the same audience. Nothing, however, could prepare me for the pain and torment of Read It and Weep, a direct rip from the Disney television network. Their slogan promises movies, magic, and more…this movie contains none of the magic part.
Adapted (and thankfully renamed) from a novel called How My Private, Personal Journal Became a Bestseller, Read It and Weep is the story of Jaime (Kay Panabaker, Nancy Drew), an unpopular grade nine girl, who vents her teenie angst by writing a fictional journal that casts herself as the strong-willed and popular Is (Danielle Panabaker, Yours, Mine and Ours). Problems begin when her journal is accidentally handed in as an English assignment, which wins a competition and is then published as a bestselling novel (all in two months!). Swept up in the fame and popularity, Jaime soon finds herself turning into the horrible popular girl she's always hated. The tables will be turned if the kids at school ever find out that her characters are based on them…
With the usual disclaimer that Read It and Weep was not made for me, I can boldly say that this has been one of the most painful review assignments I've had. Even though it clocks in at 84 minutes, the pace makes it feel much, much longer. Compounded with the rest of the problems, it makes for a movie I won't be recommending highly. Let's take a look at a few of those problems:
As I mentioned, Read It and Weep has pacing problems galore. The film races through Jaime's rise to fame and transformation to popularity in the first half. Then it slows way down for the second half, right at the time that things should pick up. The individual scenes are also paced for an audience with no attention span, fired at us in ten second bursts instead of well-developed scenes. Read it and Weep also sports some gaping plot holes. The largest of these is the journal itself. Jaime is mortified to learn that it has been published, because all of the characters are based on students from school. When all of them read the book, however, they don't realize that the characters are based on them. The producers seem to want to have their cake and eat it too. If the characters are close enough to warrant Jaime's fears, they could tell right away. If they are enough different that they can't tell, it wouldn't be that big of a deal when it is revealed.
With a few key exceptions, Read it and Weep is populated by unknown actors whose only claim to fame is that they look just a bit like more famous actors. The performances here are unimpressive, which doesn't add any credibility to the story. Kay Panabaker lacks the presence for a lead role, which is fine when she is unpopular, but problematic when she becomes famous and popular. Her character simply doesn't change enough when she changes. Conner (Jason Dolley, Saving Shiloh) and Marco (Chad Broskey), the two love interests in the film, are little more than cardboard cutouts. I can't even tell if either of them are good actors, because they've been given no opportunity to act: they are just here to take up space on set and move the plot along.
Read It and Weep is also riddled with continuity issues. One of Jaime's friends is trying to mobilize a protest against makeup companies, but she is just as heavily made up as the rest of the teenage actresses. A whale at the last dance comes crashing down, but magically sets itself back up for the last dance number, which is played by a band that has never played together before. Pizza toppings cook themselves between the kitchen and the tables. Some of the sequences with Jaime and Is talking are so poorly filmed that it's impossible to get any kind of grasp on the continuity.
As though admitting defeat, the only thing special about this DVD release is the title. I think the "zapped" refers to the transfer and the special features. While the audio is released in a respectable but generic 5.1, the video has been cropped down from 1.78:1 to 1.33:1, which is an odd choice in 2007. I seriously doubt Disney's going to scrape up lots of double dips on a high def format. The special features have also been all but zapped away. There's a press kit featurette, a Jordan Pruitt music video, an interview with the Panabaker sisters and a chance to find out which cast members keep a journal in real life (I was dying to know).
Am I recommending this film to anyone? Absolutely not. The book is apparently quite well respected, so you might want to give it a whirl, but I can't recommend this DVD to anyone. The market is full of tripe like this, and much of it is better than Read It and Weep. If you're a 12 year old girl who has nothing better to do on a Friday night and it's on TV, you may want Read It and Weep playing in the background while you text your friends, but I see little value in the film for anyone else. Parents, please don't buy this for your kids. Read them the book instead, and then you won't have to sit through it with them. I expect that I will get some flack for this review, but I strongly believe that our children deserve to be exposed to better films than this. Will some of them sit through it and enjoy it? Of course, but it's doesn't have anything to offer them. These are the stale Twinkies of the film world.
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