Friday, June 26, 2015

Movie Review: Teen Beach 2 (Back to the Beach)

*Post writing edit:* This review is long. So grab a snack, and a flashlight. And maybe a stuffed animal.

Alright, cats and kittens, let's do this shit. Here's everything I know about this going into it ahead of time:

1. It's got the guy who plays Austin on Austin & Ally, which I've seen a bit of before and after GMW. I've never been too impressed with him from what I've seen.
2. It's the sequel to Teen Beach, a movie I know nothing about.
3. It has a pretty catchy song called "I've Gotta Be Me" in it that they played during commercials for GMW sometime.
4. I think it may involve time travel?

I've got some opening comments myself. Having played "Teen Beach 2: Beach Bop Adventure," I know the names of the four main characters, I know there is a beach, some sort of time travel magic, and I know that Lela is my favorite. After using Lela in the game I did a little research, and I am smitten. The actress's name is Grace Phipps and she's like a cross between Alison Brie and Natalie Dormer. 
She's the same age as me too. God help me. So naturally I'll be giving unfair attention to her and her character in this review. Speaking of age, there's actually only one "teen" in the Teen Beach. The lead blonde male is 19, while the other three leads are all over 20. 

Okay, let's do it. 

To begin with, Austin is walking his girlfriend, who's cute but has a total Babyface, so I'm going to call her Babyface until I learn her name, blindfolded to the spot they met. This is apparently their 3 Month Anniversary, which is a lame thing to celebrate so romantically, but I guess I did do that in high school too. It sounds like it's the end of the summer, and they started dating in the beginning of the summer, which was probably the events of the first movie. It's kind of lame that they start off this movie already madly in love, 'cause you know they're just, like... going to stay in love the whole time. Where's the drama in that? I hope they end up with different people, and go their separate ways because the summer's over. "Summer Lovin'" from Grease style. Only without the girl transferring to his high school.

Austin says this summer's been the most bodacious he's ever had. He says this without a hint of irony. I guess he's a surfer, which makes sense, since this seems to be trying to be a send-up to those Frankie & Annette/Gidget style teen surf movies from the '60s. And oh, yeah, right up front, we learn in the first one they got trapped in a 1960s beach movie. So there ya go. Wow, in fact, they're having a whole conversation apparently word-for-word recreating their first conversation. So much for having fun with no context. And Austin's first words to her was "Want to watch the awesomest movie ever made?" referring to West Side Story which he was at the beach watching on his tablet? Fuck Austin. Ditch him, Babyface. He also says he'd swim to China for her. "Or Hawaii," he adds. "Whatever's that way. I have no idea what's that way." And Babyface shrugs. Oh good, so they're both morons. Great.

Then they start watching the movie they were in, I guess. And it's a dance song. This one's not that great. And way too many people are wearing leather jackets on the beach. Way too many greasers in general in this '60s movies. Greasers weren't really a '60s thing. But then, I also bet there weren't any black people in those movies, and there are some int his one, so nevermind. God, and they're all dancing with Frisbees and making it music by unzipping and zipping their zippers. Fuck this whole song and bit.

At this moment I'd like to say that last year a bunch of friends of mine were in a musical here in Chicago called Attack at Bikini Werewolf Beach: Part 2. It was a much funnier send up of teen beach musicals then this is shaping up to be. Okay, that's it. 
I steal my images from Google, guys. And this hasn't aired yet. So... expect a lot of off topic pics.

Oh, my mistake, it wasn't West Side Story they were watching, it was this movie which is called Wet Side Story. That makes more sense. It's far lamer, but it makes more sense. And it turns out that they go to the same school, so there goes my dreams. 

And Babyface loses some magic necklace or something. 

First day of school! We meet Austin(I still don't know his name, I don't think)'s best buddy who's also a surfer. It seems like we're meeting him for the first time in the franchise, because Austin exposits that he spent the summer in Indonesia. I'm surprised Austin didn't have a best friend character in the first one, but maybe if they spent the whole movie trapped in a 1960s movie there was no room to flesh out the real world. They have this exchange: "Mondo, bro." "Beyond mondo, dude. Beyond mondo." Also when Austin mentions he met a girl, the guy says (and I think I'm getting this right): "No way! You dropped a honey? Is she a super-chill surf chick?" Shortly before he throws his helmet into the air and catches it yelling "Three-Pointer!" You guys, I can't handle this. 

Babyface has a best friend too. She appears to be super school-focused and into being in lots of clubs and being involved in non-sport extracurricular activities. Bet you can't guess which ethnicity these creative geniuses made her. At least they have a black surfer in Austin's best friend. That's famously unusual.

Oh, I learned their names. He's Brady, she's Mac. I guess I'll call them that. Mac doesn't like that Brady wore flip-flops to school. Will they survive this ordeal?! In fairness, though, I don't like that Brady did that either. Oh, and the black best friend is Devon. Also, they're in a Marine Biology class together. In high school. Because they're by the beach, guys. I like how this entire town and everyone's lives are defined by their proximity to the beach. Chicago's on a beach. I live two blocks from the beach, and yet I can talk about other things. Even Mac, who I guess is ostensibly a nerd, is a nerd in that she's in charge of Oceanography Club. 

They're in class, and the so-named hottest guy in school Spencer shows up, making Mac's friend (Liz? I think? I'll call her Liz) all flustered. Spencer appears to be an intelligent, hard-working, friendly guy who is involved in a lot of things Mac is, so worthless Austin (yeah, I'm just calling him Austin) gets all piss about his existence and tries to act like he's involved in scholastic activities too. Spencer can tell Austin's full of shit, but he's a totally cool, friendly guy and tells Austin he's seen him surf and he's great and goes to shake his hand. Austin doesn't recognize what that gesture is because he knows only fist bumps. He figures it out and literally acts like he's never shaken a hand before and thinks this is a bizarre custom. I hate Austin. WE GET IT! YOU'RE A COOL SURF DUDE.

Spencer's my favorite character so far. I hope Spencer turns out to be a perfectly nice, normal guy who doesn't belong in this stupid movie with these stupid losers. And not someone who turns out to be a jerk, just so Austin can be the good guy.

Welcome to El Dorado. That's another gold text joke. They only get worse from here. 

I actually like Brady/Austin. I've seen plenty of characters who mindlessly love surfing, and who mindlessly love old musicals/showtunes, but never together. This is a chiseled jock who's also a totally unashamed geek for 60's musicals? Sounds awesome. And he's doing some surf physics diagram in his notebook here in class, that's kinda neat. Brady seems like a real character, unlike his best friend, who is a caricature and I hate him immediately. He's like Zay. Why does Disney Channel keep writing black best friends this way? 

My only other comment on that first section is that I liked the first dance number. Lela was awesome and didn't get enough camera time.

This right here is amazing though, the screen just says "COLLEGE APPLICATION" in giant letters. Holy shit that's amazing.
So Brady wants to go to college without any outside influences. That's another point in his favor.

At long last we have a real scene with my darling Lela in the Wet Side Story alternate reality. She's a "biker" while her Zac Efron supermodel boyfriend here, named Tanner, is a "surfer." I believe that's the basic plotline of Wet Side Story that we would have seen in the first movie, that forbidden love story. This scene is pretty fun, the dialogue and presentation are all overly dramatic and campy. 
The surfers are going  to "go" somewhere, I'm sure we'd have learned where from the first movie. It seems like Lela is about to break the plotline of Wet Side Story because she's the best character and she thinks for herself god dammit. 

Back in the real world, Brady shows up late for an event with some college reps. Mack chews him out for being late as he stands in the rain. I don't think it's supposed to look as stupid as it does. They apparently break up and some shitty teen romance music plays over various shots of the characters being sad and lonely. I wanna go back to Wet Side Story. 

Oh it's Brady singing, because DON'T FORGET THE ACTOR IS IN A BAND IN REAL LIFE. Okay this is such a shameless advertisement that I can't excuse it. I came here for showtunes and dance numbers, not this bullshit. Unacceptable.

Lela breaks the plot in Wet Side Story again because she's awesome. She and Tanner still remember Brady and Mack, so I guess this alternate reality consists of repeating Wet Side Story over and over, without any sort of memory-wipe. Interesting. There's some more good camp and meta humor here, and eventually Lela and Tanner wander out into the ocean to be teleported to the real world in search of the other two lead characters, after finding Mack's lost necklace floating in the water.

As they arrive in the real world, Lela exclaims "Jeepers!" God I love this girl. There's a whole montage of them seeing exciting 2015 things, and Lela says jeepers a few more times. It's one of those scenes you've seen a million times in every time travel movie, but Lela is so god damn cute that I'm still enjoying it. It could have been milked way harder, but thankfully the four all quickly find each other on the beach.
With that, I think I'll pass it back.
Lela? Really? Hmm. Okay. I mean, she's pretty and all, but I'm not all that enamored. Babyface aside, Mac's more type. But I also don't see this Alison Brie/Natalie Dormer thing you're seeing (though, I don't consider Dormer even in Brie's league.) To me, Lela's got kind of a Megan Fox vibe. And that's not my favorite vibe. I do like the character though. I would not have have thought that's how we're spelling that name though. I'd have gone with the Clapton spelling. 

Some comments about the stuff you covered: First off, Brady's desktop computer is just... set up there on his open-air deck? Shit's getting stolen, bro. And what the hell kind of house is that even? Is that... is that Donkey Kong's house? I think Brady lives in Donkey Kong's house. Anyway, no, I'm not enamored with Brady. I will grant that being into a '60s musical is an interesting character trait for the surfer dude, but a single quirk does not a character make. Ultimately, regardless of his interests, I just find him pretty unlikeable. No, he's not nearly as bad as Devon, but I still don't like him.

Oh, his mom says dinner's back to the house at six. So, this is like... Brady's own personal surf beach house? Must be nice. Also, hellloooo, Brady's Mom. You can have Lela, man.
It really annoys me that the whole reason for Brady and Mac's breakup is that he doesn't say that the reason he lost track of time is that he was applying for college, which she'd obviously be all for. Is Mac actually a lifeguard? I don't think you can just sit in that chair whenever you want to have a moment, Mac. YUP, hate Brady singing. You could have just used that song in the background (which is what I originally thought it was.) You don't need to actually see him singing. It can still be on the soundtrack and everything. And God, he's RECORDING it? What the fuck? He's not even sad. He's, like, cutting a demo. I don't even get this - we're cutting back and forth between Mac being all heartbroken and Brady, like, jamming out.

So, Tanner's gay. Are we agreed on that? I want it to turn out Tanner's gay and he's forced to suppress it because he's a straight character in a movie. And then Mac ends up with Spencer (Sorry, Liz!) and Brady ends up with Layla. But they won't do that. Will you, Disney Channel? WILL YOU?

Know who else is in the closet? Farkle. Just saying! Very convenient you save yourself for two girls who are avowedly not interested in you, while eschewing interest in girls like Smackle who are. How convenient, Farkle!

WHAT THE HELL IS THAT CRAZY WATER FOOT JETPACK HOSE CONTRAPTION THAT TANNER AND LELA ENCOUNTER?! Is that real? What the hell is that thing?! Also how's Rocker McDreadlocks plugging in his amp?

I'll give the movie this. I'm genuinely curious if Lela and Tanner will end up staying in 2015 or going back to the '60s. In the first one there's no curiosity, of course Brady and Mac need to get back to the present and they will. But this could go either way. Ultimately they're from another time and place and it creates all sorts of time dilemma stuff if they stay. But, it's a better time here too for them. I think they may Pleasantville it - one person stays (Lela) and one person goes back (Tanner). That's my bet. 

I like this song they're singing a bit better. This is the best song so far. "Right Where I Wanna Be." It feels very '60s. And yeah, lots of good Fish out of Water business.

God, Brady's fucking Donkey Kong house has a Fireman pole? And, I'm sorry, why can't Tanner go down that pole? They had poles in the 1960s. He's not stymied by poles. 

Oh, hey, another song already. "Fallin' For Ya"'s the best song yet. Too bad it's sung by two randos I don't know and don't care about. The guy in this song does not feel like he's from the 1960s at all. Also, there's a lot of jokes here about him like... beating her up? 

Aaaaaand, their cafeteria is a beautiful outdoor terrace. So... I'm done for now. 

I couldn't understand why this is so much easier for me to watch than Girl Meets World, and I figured it out. It's the fucking laugh track. Or lack of one, rather. We don't have to pause after every punchline to listen to the audience laugh. It flows so much smoother. I have to stop the video and cringe at least once an episode for GMW, but I could watch this movie all day. I suppose tv-movies will always have that natural advantage over shows. No fucking laugh track. 

The fact that Lela's hair and Tanner's hair can't get wet as a carryover from their movie is kind of hilarious.

Brady does have a Donkey Kong house! Christian... you just changed my life. That's incredible. And yeah, Tanner is confusing. Let's just say he's bi and avoid the trouble. Either way, the actor is really selling his body language. Very fluid and comfortable movements and facial expressions for such a strange role. 

"Fallin For Ya" is straight up filler. But I appreciate the tempo and the energy. Don't need to see any more of this guy who totally wishes he was Harley Keiner. 

Devon made a poor impression early, but his quick bonding moment with Tanner was close to being adorable.
Budding romance.



To quote Mack, "She titrated her sodium hydroxide perfectly, and loved the way the resulting solution matched her shoes." This is getting dangerous for me. 

The next song, "Turn It Upside Down" is a truly incredible creature. Everyone at lunch is being a jerk to Lela and Tanner, so they burst into a song about smiling and having fun, and all the other students, wearing the standard attire of various cliques, join in the song and it's a big spectacle. If you had described that to me, you couldn't have paid me to watch it. But it was actually awesome! I think we're supposed to assume, based on the carrying over of their "staying dry" movie magic, that they've also carried over their "instant group song" movie magic. You see the students themselves wondering how and why they're suddenly bursting into song. And that small distinction is what makes it enjoyable rather than unbearable. So we've got these magical 60's musical characters causing choreographed song and dance in the real world. That is fun. They really needed to come up with a better title for this than "Back To The Beach." The things I like about this movie have nothing to do with the beach.

The Wet Side Story universe is unraveling without Lela and Tanner. The characters are poofing out of existence, presumably as long as the plot remains stuck in place. That's a pretty safe sign that Lela and Tanner are heading home at the end.

Tanner and Brady have a heart to heart about losing the women they care about, and we see firsthand all of Brady's mad-scientist-surfboard creations. Seriously, for Disney Channel, a station that lives and breathes on one-dimensional characters, Brady (and Lela) deserve some serious recognition as characters.

At about the one hour mark, Lela and Tanner begin to lose their movie magic. Lela's clothes no longer transform into 60's outfits, and Tanner's hair gets wet. Compelling stuff. You can really feel the danger. Mack feels it for sure, and blurts out "You're made up characters from a movie! You're not real!" 

This post is getting crazy long, and that line is a big revelation, so let's split here and continue in a "part 2" post. 

Link to part 2:


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