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The Cheetah Girls 2: Cheetah-licious Edition DVD Review

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Movie & DVD Details

Director: Kenny Ortega

Cast: Raven-Symone (Galleria), Adrienne Bailon (Chanel), Sabrina Bryan (Dorinda), Kiely Williams (Aqua), Belinda Peregrin (Marisol), Lori Alter (Juanita), Abel Folk (Luc), Golan Yosef (Joaquin), Lynn Whitfield (Dorothea), Kim Manning (Lola), Rosana Pastor (Aramet), Peter Vives (Angel), Richard Felix (Randolph), Guillermo Ayesa (Sr. Reynosa), Sue Flack (Sra. Reynosa)

Songs: "The Party's Just Begun", "Strut", "Dance With Me", "Why Wait", "A La Nanita Nana", "Do Your Own Thing", "It's Over", "Step Up", 'Amgias Cheetahs", "Cherish the Moment"

Original Air Date: August 25, 2006/ Running Time: 96 Minutes / Rating: TV-PG

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: November 28, 2006
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $26.99
Black Keepcase with Side Snaps

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By Reuben-licious & Albert-licious Gutierrez

The Disney Channel had humble beginnings in the 1980s when it produced original family movies such as Tiger Town and Not Quite Human. It wasn’t until the late 1990s and into the new millennium that Disney Channel Original Movies, now given a hip, abbreviated branding as DCOMs, began to show an apparent dependence on the “tweenage” audience to which the network had grown to cater.
In 2001, the debut and immediate popularity of the Hilary Duff sitcom "Lizzie McGuire" solidified the Disney Channel as tween-tailored television, appealing to pre-adolescent boys and girls. Since then, Disney has attempted to rinse, lather, and repeat that success through a variety of new television shows and Disney Channel Original Movies. The company has found some success, though little that has reached the heights of "Lizzie McGuire" in her heyday. One of the cable channel's more popular productions, the DCOM The Cheetah Girls was adapted from Deborah Gregory's popular youth fiction series, premiered in 2003 and went onto become a minor worldwide hit, spawning a popular-among-tweens singing group. This past summer brought a sequel, originally called The Cheetah Girls 2: When in Spain, but ultimately titled simply The Cheetah Girls 2.

The new movie begins with the Cheetah Girls -- Galleria (Raven-Symone), Chanel (Adrienne Bailon), Dorinda (Sabrina Bryan), and Aqua (Kiely Williams) -- performing a concert for their high school’s graduating senior class. They have just finished their junior year and are excited for the summer to begin, though Galleria has plans for rehearsals and performances whilst her fellow Cheetahs are on vacation. Galleria’s mother, Dorothea (Lynn Whitfield), lets slip that Chanel’s mother Juanita (Lori Alter) plans to go to Barcelona to meet Luc (Abel Folk), her boyfriend and prospective husband. Early on, it becomes quite obvious how this sequel gets its setting/proposed subtitle. However, Juanita is not about to schlep a girl group to her boyfriend’s house on such short notice. Conveniently, the girls discover an amateur music competition in one of their fashion magazines and through the magic of the movies, the girls manage to apply and get an audition despite missing the deadline by a week (making this the first of many inane and unrealistic plot points within).

In a span of 30 seconds, the girls manage to fly over to Spain and tour Barcelona in a day. Afterwards, they relax in a café and “Strut” like they mean it through the city streets along with the mysterious and random guitarist Angel (Peter Vives). The group is quite welcoming to allow him to play and sing along with their techno dance club music. Afterwards, they journey to Luc’s villa and discover the beauty of Spain's rich folk. More characters are introduced including Luc’s godson, Joaquin (Golan Yosef), a young Count who gets to assist the girls around the city. He takes them to the Dancing Cat, which unfortunately isn't a well-choreographed feline in a circus sideshow, but instead the most happening place for teens east of the Atlantic. While having fun at this new club, the girls meet Marisol (Belinda Peregrin), Barcelona’s home-grown singer, who is also in the competition. The conflict begins to brew with the introduction of Lola Doran (Kim Manning), Marisol’s mother and agent. She may seem well-meaning, but she is secretly plotting to enter Marisol and Chanel together for the competition, without enlisting the rest of the Cheetah Girls.

Their first day in Barcelona, the Cheetah Girls try not to look like tourists, yet can't help staring at all the sites around them. Writer's Block causes Raven's eyes to pop out.

Since this movie is a sequel, most of the character development is cut down rather than enforced, as storylines get the front burner over digging deeper into each girl's personas. The song “Do Your Own Thing” reminds us of how different the girls are -- such as Dorinda being a dancer and Aquanette having fashion design skills -- and how their differences begin to work to their disadvantage. As the girls begin to enjoy their own separate activities throughout Barcelona, the plot finally takes a turn and it seems that the future of the group is in jeopardy. After some more ups and downs, the story is saved by some convenient wrap-ups to side plots and conflicts, proving that the Cheetahs stay true sisters to the end.

Going into Cheetah Girls 2, I had low expectations. The first movie seemed to drag on at many moments and I can only vaguely recall the ending since I had fallen asleep. Fortunately, this film lays off on some of the annoyances found in the first film. The Cheetah Girls have grown up and thus grown out of the annoying tweenage girl characterizations that are now seen in the snobby minor characters of "Hannah Montana." Though the girls have grown up, the writing has not. The pacing of the plot is uneven, as certain things fail to develop at a reasonable rate while others are given quick fixes to keep the story moving. There are also some moments where conflict comes out of nowhere and exists purely for opposition to exist in the story. The premise is interesting, but it is quite predictable. The movie deals with issues that are commonly found among teenage girls today, such as boy trouble, keeping friends together, and dealing with family problems.

Things suffer in that the movie tries too much to bank on the success of High School Musical and the recent splurge of dance-themed movies like Take the Lead and Step Up (ironically, one of the musical numbers is called “Step Up”). Speaking of music, the soundtrack is very similar to the original movie's and the songs are very similar to each other, with only a few twists added thanks to the Spanish influences of the movie. Fortunately, this movie gets bonus points for lush and rich scenery of the city of Barcelona (which suffer slightly from the DVD's fullscreen presentation) and the dance sequences choreographed by High School Musical’s Kenny Ortega (who directed this entire film as well).

Dancing!  You'll see a lot of it. Hey, Macarena! For her next trick, Marisol (Belinda Peregrin) will pull a pink bunny out of her pink hat to match her pink shirt and microphone.

Within the Cheetah Girls, the acting is slightly improved from the first movie. Kiely Williams' Aqua is noticeably given a bigger role this time around and she is developed more satisfactorily, but in the end, she inherits all the stereotypical sidekick characteristics. She is smart, she likes to eat, and she gets to deliver some one-liners which were quite amusing, if somewhat corny. The adult cast members do no more than what they were put there to do: serve simply as a voice of reason and moral support for the girls.
Among the new characters, the least impressive is the one with the biggest role: as Joaquin, the Dancing Count and love interest of Dorinda, Golan Yosef seems to have been cast due to his dancing talents, not his acting skills.

In the face of some of these setbacks, the nicest thing about this sequel is that on screen, the Cheetah Girls still seem to exemplify a deep friendship among a group of young women. The chemistry between the central actresses is strong, making them a believable group of friends who appear to be having a lot of fun making this movie.

All in all, despite its faults and inability to keep anyone outside the target audience entertained, The Cheetah Girls 2 has a devoted following who will more than happily add the new DVD to their collection. Best part is, it comes with another "creative" edition title from our good folks over at Disney Marketing...the Cheetah-licious Edition. We have Beyoncé and Friends to blame for the overuse and misuse of the "-licious" suffix.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The film is presented in its original broadcast ratio of 1.33:1 fullscreen, which is acceptable, but not the only consciously-framed version of Cheetah Girls 2. Widescreen clips seen in the included music video merely matte the movie to widescreen, but the 1.78:1 movie excerpts in the featurette retain the entire frame height and reveal still more on the sides. It would have been an easy compromise to provide one edition (perhaps the sing-along) in fullscreen and the other (perhaps the extended) in 16x9-enhanced widescreen, allowing viewers to choose based on their TV dimensions and viewing preferences, but Region 1 DCOM DVDs in the past have been presented in their broadcast ratio in the States, and that continues to be the case here.

The framing is somewhat tight in this hand-kiss shot as it appears in the 1.33:1 "fullscreen" broadcast ratio of the feature presentation. The same frame in widescreen, as it appears (in low quality) in the making-of featurette.

The fullscreen presentation does not, however, yield harmful framing, suggesting that the movie was simultaneously shot for standard and widescreen television dimensions. Quality for this new film is not exactly top-notch; colors are sharp and vibrant, but the picture fluctuates between being too soft and being pleasantly crisp and clear. The contrast is even, for the most part, though at times the red tones are a little strong. Some location footage suffers from lower film stock quality, but otherwise, it appears just as balanced as scenes that were done in studio. Some stock footage, however, does have slightly lesser quality and a few shots have a duller color palette than the rest of the film.

Audio is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital and, given that this is a song-and-dance film, is put to good use. At times, the music seems to overpower the singing (perhaps that's a good thing), though most of the time it’s quite even on all speakers. In addition to the 5.1 track, there’s an alternate Spanish track in Dolby Surround. Subtitles are only available in English. Also, when watching the film with the Spanish track, all songs remain sung in English (except for the lone Spanish song).

A scene from the music video - ahem - Extended Ending. Belinda Peregrin and her wild and crazy hair, as seen in the "Dance With Me" music video. The girls sit down to discuss Cheetah Tips for their viewers at home.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and DESIGN

Since they don't contain the words High School Musical in the title, bonus features aren't abundant for this release, nor are they expected to be. First up are two "versions" of the film. Quite obviously, the first version is the main film, all 96 minutes of it, but called the "Sing-Along Version" (which is really just a fancy way of saying there's an alternate subtitle track devoted solely to onscreen lyrics). Much to the chagrin of fans of the old Disney sing-a-long songs tapes, there is no bouncing cheetah head for singers to follow.
Instead, the lyrics change color as you sing a long. The Extended Version, at 100 minutes, seems more a shameful scam than a worthwhile extended cut. At the end of the broadcast version of the film, a final scene of Juanita and Luc’s wedding is added. The entire scene features the Cheetah Girls singing “Cherish the Moment” as we see moments of the wedding ceremony and reception. There is no dialogue and there are cuts to just the Cheetahs singing under trees and by other scenery at the filming location, making it quite obvious that this scene was initially produced as a kind of music video. This “extended ending” would fare better as a bonus music video since it is an unnecessary finalization of an already-concluded movie.

From the Bonus Features menu, one finds the "on" switch for the Sing-Along Version and a single music video under the EasyFind “Music and More” bullet. Presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, “Dance With Me,” (3:05), played somewhat frequently on the Disney Channel, is now seen in its entirety here. The corner credits lists Drew Seeley and Belinda (who plays Marisol) as the singers of this song. Unlike most of the music videos found on other Disney DVDs, this one features much more than movie clips and the artist singing and grooving in a studio. Seeley and Belinda dance and sing at the set of the Dancing Cat along with many changes in costume and little children hip hopping with the teens.

The last bonus feature, “Cheetah Tips! How to be Cheetah-licious” (9:55) is found under “Backstage Disney.” The Cheetah Girls, as their real selves, give viewers tips on Fashion, Friendship, Dancing, Make-Up, Diversity, Girl-Power, and Being Cheetah-licious. Interview footage of the girls at a recording studio is fused with clips from the movie and promotional photo shoots. There is footage of what happens backstage and in the dressing room with the girls’ stylist. In addition to the superficial elements of being cheetah-licious, the best part of this feature is that they mention diversity within the group. Though the discussion is brief, they remind girls and viewers the importance of accepting and learning about other cultures. The final word the Cheetah Girls give is that you can be like them, but the most important thing is to be yourself.

The Menus contain ostentatious Cheetah and girl power designs with stills of the girls. The Main menu features simple flower animations with a looping track of “The Party’s Just Begun” with clips from the movie. The other menus feature a looping track of the score and random pictures of the cast in random shapes.

The disc opens with previews for Peter Pan: Platinum Edition, Ratatouille, High School Musical: 2-Disc Remix Edition (the announcer claims it as “the biggest DVD event of the year”, excuse me while I go off to cry), Read It and Weep: Zapped Edition,
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and "That’s So Suite Life of Hannah Montana": Mixed-Up Mashed-Up Edition. Interestingly, the "Coming Soon" interstitials and introductions are new and differ from those found on previous Disney DVDs. Found on the Sneak Peeks menu in addition to the aforementioned ads are previews for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Four-Disc Extended Edition, "Hannah Montana", the recently-released DCOM Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior, and two yet to debut: Jump In! and High School Musical 2, Cinderella III: A Twist in Time, which reveals nothing other than the fact that there is more High School Musical to come and we all have the fans to thank. Surprisingly, there is no promo or commercial for the new vacation-planning program "Adventures by Disney" which does feature an option to travel through Barcelona.

Found inside the side-snap-protected black keepcase is the DVD chapter guide with advertisements for more DCOM DVDs plus the concurrently-released Robin Hood: Most Wanted Edition DVD and The Cheetah Girls 2: 2-Disc Special Edition soundtrack. There is also a Disney Movie Rewards Magic Code and instructions on how to save $3 on Lip Smackers products (the savings requires a computer, the Internet, postage, a DVD receipt and a UPC; why they just did not simply provide a clip out coupon is beyond me - save the trees, man).

The sing-along version highlights the words as they are sung. "A la nanita nana...we call out to the spirits from beyond!" Cheetah Power!

CLOSING-licious THOUGHTS

By now, dear reader, you have suffered enough of our sardonic-licious remarks towards a DCOM that adds to the pile of unnecessary Disney sequels. So, is this DVD good for the people who actually like the movie? In short, yes. It's got the movie, the sing-along version, and bonus features that give just enough to tickle your Cheetah Girl fancy. The disc is probably only best for true fans of the books, movies, artists, and those of the slumber partying audience. For those who don't fall into the previous categories, the “Cheetah-licious Edition” moniker should be the first clue that you should not buy this DVD. Take the hint and save your money - the disc earns a recommendation for neither the casual Disney fan nor families looking for a nice movie to enjoy together. Both the movie and its DVD features rely so much on the interests of today's pre-adolescent and teenage girls that it would be torturous for Dad, Grandpa, dateless teen Junior, and Uncle Orville sit through this while Superman Returns is sitting one DVD shelf over back at your local retailer or rental place.

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Related Reviews:
The Cheetah Girls 2: Soundtrack (CD) • Disney's Karaoke Series: The Cheetah Girls 2 (CD)
Radio Disney Party Jams (CD + Concert DVD) • The Cheetah Girls: A Cheetah-licious Christmas (CD)
That's So Raven: Supernaturally StylishThat's So Raven: Disguise the LimitThat's So Raven: Raven's House Party
That's So Raven: Makeover MadnessHannah Montana: Livin' the Rock Star Life!Disney Channel Holiday
High School Musical: Encore EditionNewsiesWendy Wu: Homecoming WarriorCow BellesChicken Little
Chicken Little: Soundtrack (CD) • Kim Possible: The Villain FilesThe Suite Life of Zack & Cody: Taking Over the Tipton
Disneymania 3 in ConcertDisneymania 4 (CD) • Disneymania 3 (CD) • Leroy & StitchLizzie McGuire: Volume 1

Related Preorders:
That's So Suite Life of Hannah Montana: Mixed-Up, Mashed-Up EditionRead It and Weep: Zapped Edition (available January 16, 2007)

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Reviewed November 28, 2006.