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StarStruck: Extended Edition DVD + Full-Length Soundtrack CD Review

Disney's StarStruck (2010) DVD + CD Cover Art StarStruck
Movie & DVD Details

Director: Michael Grossman / Writers: Barbara Johns (story & teleplay), Annie DeYoung (teleplay)

Cast: Sterling Knight (Christopher Wilde), Danielle Campbell (Jessica Olson), Maggie Castle (Sara Olson), Brandon Mychal Smith (Albert J. "Stubby" Stubbins), Chelsea Staub (Alexis Bender), Beth Littleford (Barbara Olson), Dan O'Connor (Dean Olson), Lauren Bowles (Sherry Wilde), Ron Pearson (Daniel Wilde), Matt Winston (Alan Smith), Toni Trucks (Libby Lam), Alice Hirson (Grandma Olson), Abbie Cobb (AJ), Hugh Dane (Howard), Sunkrish Bala (Dr. Sanjay Lad), Harry Perry (Skater)

Original Air Date: February 14, 2010 / Running Time: 84 Minutes (Extended Cut) / Rating: TV-G

Songs: "StarStruck", "Shades", "Hero", "Something About the Sunshine", "What You Mean to Me", "Party Up", "Got to Believe"

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Not Captioned or Subtitled
DVD Release Date: June 8, 2010 / Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Two single-sided discs (DVD-9 & CD) / Black Keepcase in Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as Standalone Extended Edition DVD ($26.99 SRP)

Buy StarStruck from Amazon.com: Extended Edition DVD & Soundtrack CD Just the Extended Edition DVD


Among Disney Channel's biggest 21st century hits are "Hannah Montana", High School Musical, Camp Rock, and The Cheetah Girls. What do they all have in common? Pop music. Each of those properties has generated franchises, complete with sequels, platinum soundtracks, expansions, and every tie-in item you could think of.
Franchises are all the rage under the present Disney administration (chaired by the Disney Channel president behind the aforementioned), so it's no surprise that the company would look at current draws as a way to build another potential cable tween mini-empire.

Somewhere between the 120th and 130th Disney Channel Original Movie made (semi-qualifying productions give the list some leeway), StarStruck immediately channels many of the same themes as vehicles of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. The requisite young music star here is Christopher Wilde (Sterling Knight, "Sonny With a Chance"), a rich, effeminate teen with many gold records and a huge fan following. Wilde is about to break into movies, but landing a breakthrough role requires staying out of the tabloids, something his paparazzi-tipping girlfriend Alexis (Chelsea Staub, "Jonas") makes tough.

Sterling Knight plays pop star Christopher Wilde, rich and famous at 17 years old, in Disney's 2010 TV movie "StarStruck." Kooky big sister Sara Olson (Maggie Castle) can't get enough Wilde, but her grounded little sister Jessica (Danielle Campbell) seems pretty indifferent.

Because Disney likes to balance superstardom with normalcy, the flip side of the movie deals with the Olsons, two teen sisters from Kalamazoo, Michigan who take a Los Angeles vacation with their parents to visit their grandmother. Older sister Sara (Maggie Castle) is a diehard Christopher Wilde fan determined to meet him; younger sister Jessica (Danielle Campbell) isn't. That clues you into which one is destined to connect with him, in case you don't know going in and their introductory scene deliberately throws you off.

It is Jessica who runs into Wilde, unimpressed by his fame and wealth. He helps her get home and then she helps him avoid getting photographed.
Apparently, the paparazzi travel in ominous black vans and neither their pursuits nor Christopher's fear of them ever subsides. While the self-centered Sara is busy catching rays, Jessica and Christopher reunite for a day of L.A. sightseeing, on which they alternate between developing feelings and not being able to stand one another. It's both ends of the romcom arc and you can bet there are some wacky disguises and hijinks to boot.

Like everything else the Disney Channel seems to put out lately, StarStruck is a tween girl's fantasy in which fame can be flirted with and improbable love can bloom, all the while learning lessons. This is one stupid, routine movie. The boldest it gets is putting TMZ-type media in the crosshairs, a message it's hard to sympathize with while recognizing the integral part that tabloid photojournalism plays in Disney's ongoing manufacturing of multi-platform young stars.

On their day of L.A. sightseeing, Christopher (Sterling Knight) and Jessica (Danielle Campbell) make sure to take a picture of themselves by the landmark Hollywood sign. Chelsea Staub, Joe Jonas' onscreen Disney Channel girlfriend, plays actress Alexis Bender, Christopher's attention-loving girlfriend.

Leading lady Danielle Campbell is a distractingly weak actress. You don't want to put down a 14-year-old girl who looks and sounds as young as she does, but fault lies in the casting that placed photogenicism above talent. There isn't a believable emotion in her performance and the movie suffers for it. Across from her, 20-year-old Sterling Knight is more polished but none too likable. That is more the character than him; smug Christopher Wilde names the expensive cars in his collection, promises loads of money for favors, and enjoys listening to and singing along with his music. And it's not him but his career-minded manager parents (Lauren Bowles, Ron Pearson) and the sketchy film director (Matt Winston) who get comeuppances.

Christopher Wilde's fictional popularity is a bit of an enigma. Wielding Justin Bieberish fame, Wilde sings the world's most generic songs. He kind of sounds and looks like Jesse McCartney, at least the McCartney from a few years back that I was more subjected to in covering all things Disney. You might not need to buy Wilde's success if only the movie didn't dwell on it. Why linger on performances of these meaningless bubblegum pop ditties with no perceivable genuine skill on display? It's all lip-synching, electronic enhancement, backing vocals, and fake instrumentation.

Since the music bits don't sharpen or flesh out the story, it's reasonable to ask: what is gained by them? Well, with the way these original songs are piled on, you needn't be a cynic to suspect that the movie was created with digital downloads and album sales in mind. Millions of copies of each of the three High School Musical movie soundtracks were sold and the first one did its business largely organically with a creative process similar to this.

Love and friendship are casually (and not always believably) color-blind in this movie's Los Angeles. Exposition tells us that Stubby (Brandon Mychal Smith) and Christopher (Sterling Knight) have been best friends since the fourth grade. Jessica offers a scathing indictment of paparazzi. Let's hope that first-time star Danielle Campbell doesn't need them some day.

But StarStruck wasn't received anywhere near as widely and warmly as the HSM movies. Logging 6 million viewers, its February 2010 debut would have been much more impressive pre-HSM's 7.1 M. Instead, the audience was slightly more than half the size of previous DCOM Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie's viewership and a bit more than a third of the record-setting High School Musical 2.
Of course, Disney would tell you that those movies debuted in the summer, the cable channel's biggest season, while StarStruck premiered on Valentine's Day. (When some potential viewers may have been out at the theaters seeing Warner's star-studded ensemble romcom Valentine's Day.) Though Disney's President's Day press release touted the movie's premiere ratings, the statistics they cited reveal the challenge to construe the DCOM as successful: almost twice as many kids aged 6-14 watched StarStruck's debut over the Olympics and 88% more people watched the movie over whatever movie Disney reaired on that weekend a year earlier. Wawaweewa! Even more pathetic are the soundtrack sales, which, citing Billboard, Wikipedia has pegged at "almost 58,000 copies" to date.

An underperforming new Disney Channel movie is still ripe for releasing to Disney DVD; the last one that failed to turn up on disc was Life is Ruff five years ago. StarStruck comes to DVD on June 8th in an Extended Edition. At 84 minutes, this runs 4 minutes longer than the broadcast cut that appears on YouTube in eight parts. That means the broadcast version was unusually short. However, the barely elongated DVD cut feels ample for this thin story. It adds the song "Got to Believe" (which gave the movie that feel of being overly attentive to unremarkable music) and at least one scene in which Sara shows Jessica Internet coverage of her highly publicized extended celebrity encounter.

StarStruck is treated to something very few Disney movies get any more: a 2-disc DVD release. Alas, this premium set merely pairs the regular Extended Edition DVD with the movie's full soundtrack CD. A mere $3 in list price separates this from the standalone DVD and I see much more value in an audio CD than the digital copy DVD-ROM that most of Disney's recent second discs were (before they made those Blu-ray Combo pack-exclusives).

VIDEO and AUDIO

Thankfully, Disney isn't subjecting North America to 1.33:1 fullscreen presentations anymore. The DVD presents StarStruck in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, matching the dimensions of its high-def broadcasts. The picture is entirely clear and vibrant, displaying the soft lighting and bright palettes that DCOMs are known for. The music is a little lackluster, but some nicely-rendered atmospheric effects redeem the Dolby 5.1 soundtrack.

It's no surprise that flashbulbs go off all around the hot young couple of "StarStruck." Sadly, Christopher Wilde isn't singing Lazlo Bane's theme to "Scrubs" here, but a song called "Hero." And, sadly, no, not the Enrique Iglesias "Hero." Nonetheless, you can sing, er, rock along with the movie thanks to these bold color-changing lyrics.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

StarStruck's bonus offerings are light even for a Disney Channel DVD.
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First up is "Rock Along with the Movie" which is a fancy and succinct way to say "watch the movie with bold large subtitles that only display original song lyrics and turn from green to pink as lyrics are sung." I'm sure some viewers will enjoy this and it couldn't have taken much effort.

Next up come a trio of music videos. Sterling Knight performs the movie-opening "StarStruck" (3:10). Non-actress Anna Margaret sings the catchy "Something About the Sunshine" (3:30), easily the movie's best tune. Finally, the movie's closing hip hop number, "Party Up" (2:05), is performed by "Stubby" (Brandon Mychal Smith), Christopher's Flo Rida-aspiring best friend.

The DVD extras conclude with two basically irrelevant promos for technologies that don't apply here. Sprouse brothers Dylan and Cole shill Blu-ray (4:43), a format that Disney has determined is presently unviable for Disney Channel releases. That is followed by a now-standard one-minute spot on digital copies.

The FastPlay-equipped DVD loads with the family-oriented Disney Blu-ray promo and trailers for Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam. Post-feature/Sneak Peeks menu commercials are for Disney Movie Rewards, Genuine Tinker Bell-approved Disney Treasure, Alice in Wonderland (2010), The Last Song, James and the Giant Peach: Special Edition Blu-ray, and Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue.

Sterling Knight/Christopher Wilde performs the titular song "StarStruck" (that's one word with two capitals) in a blue-lit music video. Anna Margaret performs her solo version of cheery Los Angeles ode "Something About the Sunshine." Stubby (Brandon Mychal Smith) performs the film-closing "Party Up" in the style of rapper Flo Rida.

The menu slowly zooms in on a looped collection of photos of the couple around which flashbulbs pop while a song excerpt plays. After two iterations, playback begins automatically. A different character adorns each of the static submenus, all of which are accompanied by mostly varied song samples.

Now, for the one thing that will determine which edition of StarStruck consumers opt for: the full soundtrack CD (37:47). It's interesting that Disney continues to use plastic on music created for its cable programming while simultaneously phasing out soundtrack CDs for its big theatrical films
(going download-only on Up and A Christmas Carol and completely album-less on G-Force, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, etc.). Perhaps StarStruck's disappointing CD sales explain why Disney has chosen it to become the studio's first DVD movie + CD set (by contrast, Walt Disney Records has done plenty of CD + fluffy DVD combos).

I don't have much to say about the album. Mirroring the programming, I find Disney Channel's musical sensibilities harder to care for with each passing year. For me, I'd rank StarStruck's songs about on par with the High School Musical ones (sacrilege, say the HSM devotees), i.e. they're disagreeable, but not quite as revolting as The Cheetah Girls' output. (Clearly, I couldn't tell you what frequency Radio Disney claims for me.) A few are more passable than others. I genuinely enjoyed both versions of "Something About the Sunshine", and I could see time and repeat listens softening my dislike of some of the rest. Liner notes and full credits probably ought to have been included. A basic titles-only track list appears on the rear cover artwork. To that, with help from CDDB, I give you this:

1. Christopher Wilde - StarStruck
2. Christopher Wilde - Shades
3. Christopher Wilde & Stubby - Hero
4. Christopher Wilde & Anna Margaret - Something About the Sunshine (Duet)
5. Christopher Wilde - What You Mean to Me
6. Stubby - Party Up
7. Christopher Wilde - Got to Believe (Bonus Track)
8. Christopher Wilde - Hero (Unplugged)
9. Anna Margaret - Something About the Sunshine (Solo)
10. Anna Margaret - New Boyfriend
11. Mitchel Musso - Welcome to Hollywood
12. Jasmine Sagginario - Make a Movie

StarStruck's Extended Edition DVD + Soundtrack CD set includes a holographic cardboard slipcover which puts the color spectrum behind the stars nearly everywhere but the border. The standard keepcase within (whose imagery is identical) holds the DVD on a swinging tray across from a Disney Movie Rewards code insert and a booklet advertising an assortment of Disney Channel properties (including Camp Rock 2, coming to DVD on September 7th).

Jessica Olson (Danielle Campbell) and Christopher Wilde (Sterling Knight) enjoy a lovely walk on the beach that turns sour.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

It's tough finding anything nice to say about StarStruck, Disney Channel's vapid latest by-the-numbers original movie. Clearly, there is an audience out there for such slick, manufactured, tame product. But it's a narrow audience that likely won't care for this sort of thing in a few years. How I wish that you could find even just a couple of moments here providing an emotion, a value, an idea, or a joke that didn't feel like it was created by a bland computer algorithm and robbed of all meaning in delivery. While there are worse DCOMs out there, I don't know that you'll find one as generic and unimaginative as StarStruck.

With that said, if you like this movie and foresee you or your kids watching it whenever they feel like, the DVD offers a satisfactory presentation. The extras could be better (that muddy car drowning begs for a making-of piece), but they will have to do because there's no way this movie gets revisited anytime soon under Disney's conservative current release strategies. If you're set on buying, the DVD+CD is a smart way to pick up the soundtrack (which on its own sells for $18.98) inexpensively, and the premium is only a fraction of even the album's $7.99 digital download price.

More on the DVD + CD Set / Buy from Amazon.com / Buy just the DVD

Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed May 29, 2010.