A charming retro throwback of a teen rom-com that is bolstered by the talents of its young stars.
Director: Jeffrey Hornaday
Runtime: 93 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English and Various
Extras: Episode of Shake It Up
The Disney Channel Original Movies have been running in one form or another since 1983, but thanks to a little phenomenon called High School Musical (2006), they have gained even more attention over the last half-decade. Flagships for the eponymous cable network, they are showcases for both current and rising Disney stars, many of whom have gone on to become major celebs in their own right. Based on the novel by Robin Palmer, Geek Charming is a throwback to the heyday of class-based teen romances of the 1980s. It’s a modern twist on a fairy tale told through the lens of the greatest people on Earth: geeks.
Dylan Schoenfield (Modern Family‘s Sarah Hyland) is a stuck-up princess who is determined to win Blossom Queen at the upscale Woodlands Academy. Josh Rosen (Matt Prokop) is a self-confessed film geek who also wants to win a local documentary competition. After a chance encounter with Dylan, he decides to make his film about modern popularity and in particular Dylan. Despite his crush on Amy (Sasha Pieterse), the alternative band chick who used to be friends with Dylan, he soon finds that his perception of his subject changes as he spends more time with her.
They are from different worlds, their friends don’t approve and there’s a prom at the end. Wherever John Hughes is now, his legacy is going strong. Indeed, Geek Charming is one of the most natural successors to the 80s teen romances in the last few decades, as it isn’t consciously trying to satirise or be meta about the whole thing. Rather, it embodies the spirit of those simple love stories and provides us with a fairly straightforward tale of star-crossed lovers. Even the cultural references are firmly from the 1980s, including a trip to the cinema to see a revival of the 1986 Disney sci-fi film Flight of the Navigator. We aren’t sure whether kids are still watching these great flicks, but its good to know the writers are, and using them wisely no less.
Despite a heavy Mean Girls (2004) vibe in the early half of the film, coupled with some direct-to-camera documentary style pieces, Hyland and Prokop have an easy on-screen chemistry that carries this into heartwarming territory. Their coupling is a foregone conclusion, but that doesn’t stop some fun being had with the familiar tropes along the way. The ‘Populars’ are only a few shades away from the Plastics, and the ‘film geek’ conversations rely on familiar stereotypes as well. Yet it is difficult to deny that film geeks are pedants, and most of the depictions in this film pale in comparison to your average web forum. That said, Prokop may be one of the better looking geeks of the species, but we’ll allow Disney this one indulgence for the sake of romance.
Taking a break from their run of musical pieces that have included Camp Rock 2 and Lemonade Mouth, last year’s Geek Charming is a welcome return to teen rom-coms. With nary a song to drag us out of the moment, its predictability never hinders its charms thanks to a terrific cast a genuine affection for the genre it is trying to imitate. Whether this connects with modern tweens is debatable, but any fan of films from the 1980s will do just fine with this fun piece of modern nostalgia.
Disney Channel content seems to be the one area where Disney hasn’t fully committed to Blu-ray. Presented in 1.78:1 (16:9), Geek Charming looks like the best possible SD copy you can find, although it would have been nice to see this in hi-def. Despite a series of ‘making of’ featurettes originally screening before the premiere of the film, none of these can be found here. In fact, the only bonus feature we get is two-part episode of the fun Disney Channel sitcom Shake It Up (“Shake It Up, Up and Away“). On the US equivalent, there are no less than 10 episodes over a 2-Disc set. Given that Disney have been notorious unwilling to package their Disney Channel series as season sets, this is a good way for fans to grab a whole bunch of episodes at once. However, if you are just interested in the movie, go local. A real charmer for sure.
Geek Charming is released on DVD in Australia on 3 October 2012 from Disney.