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Lemonade Mouth: Extended Edition DVD + Digital Copy Review

Lemonade Mouth: Extended Edition DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Lemonade Mouth
Movie & DVD Details

Director: Patricia Riggen / Writers: Mark Peter Hughes (novel), April Blair (teleplay)

Cast: Bridgit Mendler (Olivia White), Adam Hicks (Wen Gifford), Hayley Kiyoko (Stella Yamada), Naomi Scott (Mohini Banjaree), Blake Michael (Charlie Delgado), Nick Roux (Scott), Chris Brochu (Ray), Shishir Kurup (Mo's Baba), Tisha Campbell-Martin (Miss Reznick), Christopher McDonald (Principal Stan Brenigan), Bob Jesser (Wen's Dad), Aimee Dale (Stella's Mom), Ariana Smythe (Sydney), Caitlin Ribbans (Jules), Elise Eberle (Patty), Chapman Hyatt (Lyle), Riti Sachdeva (Mo's Mother), Judith Rane (Gram), Tom Romero (Mr. Prichard), Leedy Corbin (Georgie), Tomas Sanchez (Cop), Edward Duran (Beefy Guy #1), Jermaine Washington (Beefy Guy #2), Brendan Clark (Timothy Yamada), Paul Clark (Andrew Yamada), Scott Takeda (Stella's Dad), Isaac Kappy (Mel), Pamela McCreary (Faye the Secretary), Johnnie Hector (Coach), Phil Luna (Charlie's Dad), Lora Cunningham (Charlie's Mom), Ryan Montano (Tommy Delgado), Lauren Poole (Moxie Morris - uncredited)

Songs: "Turn Up the Music", "Somebody", "And the Crowd Goes", "Determinate", "Here We Go", "She's So Gone", "More Than a Band", "Don't You Wish U Were Us?", "Breakthrough", "Livin' on a High Wire"

Original Air Date: April 15, 2011 / Running Time: 113 Minutes (Extended Edition) / Rating: TV-G

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Hi-Def Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled and Captioned
DVD Release Date: May 12, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $26.99
Two single-sided discs (DVD-9 & DVD-5 DVD-ROM) / Black Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover

Buy Lemonade Mouth on DVD from Amazon.com • Download the Lemonade Mouth Soundtrack


The DVD cover for Lemonade Mouth takes a different approach, depicting its characters in grayscale and secondary to a zesty logo and yellow color scheme befitting the title. You might reasonably expect that's just a new way to dress up what appears to be a beast all too familiar to the 21st century Disney Channel: a commercially minded tween-oriented musical.
And while you can stick that label on this, the cable network's latest original movie, the unconventional cover design accurately reflects that you are not getting just another new production in the mold of High School Musical, "Hannah Montana", and Camp Rock. In contrast to all of those lucrative franchises, Lemonade Mouth does not feel like it was written by a mix of computer program and committee. Nope, this one actually feels like it was created for humans by humans and that distinguishes it as one of Disney Channel's best original movies in quite a while.

It may help that Lemonade Mouth is not an entirely original project, but an adaptation of Mark Peter Hughes' 2007 young adult novel of the same name. It isn't unique in that regard; a good number of recent DCOMs have made use of modern literature. I can only assume, though, that Hughes' text provided a sturdier than usual foundation and that April Blair, who wrote the teleplay, found ways to stay true to the book's voice and possibly strengthen it, having no prior Disney Channel experience to use as a crutch.

You can tell by the opening moments that this is not generic regurgitation founded upon market studies. The movie opens with five good kids in detention. It is from this shared encounter that the titular band is formed. Each member has a personality, a source of domestic unease, and opportunity for growth.

Like The Breakfast Club, the teenagers of Lemonade Mouth number five and bond in detention. Olivia White (Bridgit Mendler) overcomes her stage fright to be the lead singer of Lemonade Mouth.

The anarchic Stella (Hayley Kiyoko, Velma in the two live-action Scooby-Doo TV movies), the black sheep of her brilliant biracial family, is new to Mesa High School, starting a month into the new school year. Ginger boy Wen (Adam Hicks, "Zeke and Luther") is not pleased his newly-divorced father is dating a 28-year-old community college student. Mohini (Naomi Scott) comes from a traditional Indian family that frowns upon anything besides college preparation. Shaggy-haired drummer Charlie (Blake Michael) is uninterested in trying to live up to his admired older brother's soccer legacy. Rounding out the group is Olivia ("Good Luck Charlie" star Bridgit Mendler), who is living with her grandmother following her mother's death and another issue she hasn't yet come to terms with.

Under the leadership of Segway-riding Principal Stan Brenigan (Happy Gilmore's Christopher McDonald, adding another entertaining villain to his résumé), sports are the high school's top priority. While Brenigan is proudly unveiling the spacious new sports drink-sponsored gymnasium on the ground level, all the extracurricular activities that don't generate revenue for the school are relegated to the inhospitable basement alongside those serving detention. Each of the five leads ends up in detention for a different reason, most of their transgressions ranging from harmless to accidental. There, each has separately cracked open a glass bottle of lemonade from the basement's random all-lemonade vending machine. When their moderator (Tisha Campbell-Martin, "My Wife and Kids") is out, they spontaneously begin making music with whatever items they have on hand, with Olivia ultimately singing a song she's written.

Their talk of forming a band stalls over doubts and fears. Olivia, for instance, is terrified of singing in front of a crowd. There is also the fact that they'd have to compete with school-ruling Mudslide Crush. But they do it, adopting the name Lemonade Mouth from a cafeteria scuffle. Their music doesn't immediately drop the group's outsider status, but it does earn them respect and sympathy, which provides comfort from the personal baggage hanging over them. Though the band prepares for the big important Rising Star competition, the inevitable climax setting, the movie doesn't become a parade of soundtrack-promoting original songs, remaining very much invested in these teenagers and their personal lives.

He may be blonde now, but Christopher McDonald otherwise reminds us of Shooter McGavin with his amusing antagony as Principal Brenigan. In this Extended Edition DVD's exclusive ending, the newly-expanded Lemonade Mouth appears on talk show The Music Scene with host Moxie Morris (Lauren Poole, far right).

That differentiates this movie from other Disney Channel ones that break down into generic dream-chasing you won't hold onto after the end credits roll. Lemonade Mouth shows a little more effort, as if Blair and overqualified Mexican director Patricia Riggen (who helmed 2007's well-regarded Under the Same Moon) respect Hughes' characters as real young people and never stop treating them as such.
Watch "Determinate", a song clip from the movie:
Helping them do that are young actors who are better than most of those whom Disney employs. Their performances foreshadow bigger things, not just prolonged exposure in Disney's tween empire.

Lemonade Mouth isn't without some faults. The arcs do carry the tidiness of more contrived ones, although expectations are defied on one of two couplings. Also, the young antagonists of Mudslide Crush are a bit too on-the-nose in their punkery. At least, they're catchy about it... sample lyric: "You're MIA, we're VIP. You're LOL, we're B-I-G."

The music, in fact, would have to number among the movie's strengths. That's another surprise, since Disney Channel pop seems to lose its appeal around the time you stop going trick-or-treating. I don't know that I would go far enough to call the songs of Lemonade Mouth good (lyrically, they're pretty shallow), but they're very good by the cable channel's standards.

In its April 15th broadcast debut, Lemonade Mouth attracted 5.7 million viewers, a far cry from the numbers on the Camp Rock and High School Musical movies, but a bit better than most other recent Disney Channel movies. On May 24th, Lemonade Mouth comes to DVD and DVD alone exclusively in an Extended Edition. The only extension appears to be a 5½-minute epilogue that follows the end credits. This completely superfluous tag, in which the band is interviewed and performs "Livin' on a High Wire" on a talk show, feels more like a bonus feature than part of the movie itself. It can easily be thought of that way and may be more appreciated as such. While it would have been simple for Disney to give viewers the choice to watch the movie with or without that addition, there is ample time to press "stop" or "menu" after the credits and before the scene plays, should you so desire.

Stella Yamada (Hayley Kiyoko) interrupts the gymnasium's dedication ceremony to live up to her T-shirt and "Question? Authority." Traditional Indian father Baba Banjaree (Shishir Kurup) discourages anything but academics and classical music, so Mo (Naomi Scott) doesn't immediately tell him about her rock band.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The days of American DVDs only supplying 1.33:1 fullscreen presentations of Disney Channel Original Movies are long gone. Lemonade Mouth appears in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio of its high-definition broadcasts. It may not have the resolution it did there, but it looks pretty terrific nonetheless. That there is no Blu-ray edition offered confirms what Amazon's low sales ranks on the handful of non-HSM DCOMs released on that format indicate, that Disney Channel programming is a hard sell in hi-def (at least as far as Disney is concerned; the studio just doesn't bother with anything that will sell less than a million units these days). Close viewing and long shots reveal the limitations of the DVD format, but Lemonade Mouth still boasts good colors, decent sharpness, and a spotless element.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack also delivers solid quality, although the gap between dialogue and music volume levels is enough to annoy someone who doesn't appreciate that common design. While the dialogue parts do tend to be low-key and unremarkable, clarity, crispness, and depth all suffice.

The Rock-Along mode animates the lyrics as Lemonade Mouth gathers at Olivia's Gram's house. Of course, they'll always be more than a band. There's a book and a movie too! Lemonade Mouth's ginger rapper Wen Gifford (Adam Hicks) poses coolly between a pair of Mel's fateful organic lemonade vending machines on the DVD's stylish main menu montage.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

While Disney Channel movies are typically given few bonus features on DVD, Lemonade Mouth is light even by the standards of its class. First up, the epilogue can be viewed on its own, which makes sense except for with FastPlay, which repeats it following the movie that just ended with it.

The only other real bonus feature is a Rock-Along mode, which simply animates colorful lyric subtitles over the songs during otherwise standard playback.

They might as well have expanded this to offer song selection for an all-musical version of the movie and a simple random shuffle feature.

The DVD also holds Disney's standard inclusions, the Timon and Pumbaa short promoting Blu-ray 3D (4:24) and an updated explanation of Disneyfile digital copy (1:04).

The second disc, questionably included in the packaging's count, is merely a digital copy DVD-ROM, supplying the movie in Windows Media for computers and portable devices and iTunes. It's too bad the studio couldn't come up with anything else to accompany these files; MP3s of the soundtrack's 10 tracks for instance, which are currently a nice deal at $5 on Amazon.com. At least the digital copies appear to be included at no additional cost.

Via FastPlay, the DVD opens with trailers for The Lion King: Diamond Edition, Cars 2, and The Fox and the Hound and The Fox and the Hound 2: 2 Movie Collection. Following the movie and the repeated extended ending, additional promos play for Disney Movie Rewards, "Shake It Up", Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension, Spooky Buddies: The Curse of the Howlloween Hound, and Bambi II: Special Edition Blu-ray. The menu's "Sneak Peeks" listing plays both batches in succession.

The fancy Andy Warholian main menu evokes the cover design with a rotation of colorless character stills joined by a looped bit of "Determinate."

A touch better than just a plain old slipcover, Lemonade Mouth's sleeve embosses the characters, the title, the border, and the prominent lemon slice, while placing Adam Hicks on its second spine. Inside the case, a small booklet promotes Blu-ray and 3D.

Lemonade Mouth knows they've made it when they see this giant photo of them hanging atop Dante's Pizzeria.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I entered Lemonade Mouth knowing nothing about it and unaware of any hype surrounding the movie. It wound up being one of the most enjoyable, entertaining, and earnest Disney Channel Original Movies I've seen in a long time. I can only think of two 21st century entries to the class of comparable quality, both of which benefit from having a TV series stand as backstory.
Watch "This is That Moment", a clip from Lemonade Mouth:
It's nice to see some humanity and personality creep into a format that for so long has thrived on bland, narrow product.

Unfortunately, Lemonade Mouth could have fared better on home video. Its extended cut slaps an unnecessary, detached scene onto the end of the movie and the only other bonus features are a digital copy and lyric subtitles you very well might not use. A sequel (something discussed but definitely not inevitable) is the only way Disney would release this movie on Blu-ray or reissue it on DVD in the near future and even then, none of that is a given. So, make peace with this being the only release of the movie for the time being and, on the unexpected strengths of the movie, I encourage you to check it out.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / Download the Soundtrack on Amazon MP3 ($5)

Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed May 12, 2011.