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Read It and Weep: Zapped Edition DVD Review
|Read It and Weep
Movie & DVD Details
Director: Paul Hoen
Cast: Kay Panabaker (Jameson Bartlett), Danielle Panabaker (Is), Alexandra Krosney (Harmony), Marquise C. Brown (Lindsay), Allison Scagliotti-Smith (Sawyer Sullivan/Myrna), Jason Dolley (Connor Kennedy), Chad Broskey (Marco Vega/Marco Vincent), Tom Virtue (Ralph Bartlett), Connie Young (Peggy Bartlett), Robin Riker (Diana, the Handler), Nick Whitaker (Lenny Bartlett), Falisha Fejoko (Jennifer #1), Malinda Money (Jennifer #2), Joyce Cohen (Ms. Gallagher), K.C. Clyde (Tim Kennedy)
Original Air Date: July 21, 2006 / Running Time: 84 Minutes / Rating: TV-G
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: January 16, 2007
Single-Sided Dual-Layered Disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
White Keepcase with Side Snaps
By Albert Gutierrez
When Grace Metalious wrote her tawdry novel Peyton Place in 1956, she based the unscrupulous characters on people she knew and the controversial plotlines on things that really happened in her hometown and neighboring areas of New Hampshire. Within a year of its publication, the book was a fixture on the New York Times' best-seller list and was adapted into a successful Hollywood picture. By then, the residents of Gilmanton, Laconia, and Alton had already realized the book was based on them, and naturally were upset. They shunned Metalious at sight, and would spread rampant rumors about her, hoping to discredit her reputation as a good writer. Metalious took it in stride stating, "If I'm a lousy writer, then an awful lot of people have lousy taste."
Read It and Weep shares the same premise, but is tamer and without controversy. The Disney Channel Original Movie seemed to come and go over the summer, barely registering a blip on the radar, and after watching it, I can see why. I usually give Disney Channel movies the benefit of the doubt, and I certainly tried for this one, but I don't think I have ever been more bored in my life than I was in these 84 minutes that I'll never get back. Then again, I'm not exactly the audience Disney Channel was aiming Read It and Weep at. I'm not thirteen years old, I don't paint my nails in bright and lively colors, I have never owned a purse or a skirt, and I don't get excited at the prospect of getting my hair cut recreationally. In other words, I'm a guy, and an old fogey compared to the targeted demographic. However, if I were a skirt-wearing, purse-carrying, nail-painting thirteen-year-old girl with a new 'do, I could see the appeal of Jamie and Is and "ZAP!." Read It and Weep follows a path laid out by many other youth-oriented films, offering an idealized and clique-dominated high school and making sure to provide the happy ending that Disney movies are known for.
Young high school student Jamie Bartlett (Kay Panabaker, "Phil of the Future" and Life is Ruff) is not too well-known, has a small circle of friends, and often finds solace in her journal. Unlike other journal-keepers who recap the events of their day, Jamie instead writes a story in hers, "Is Saves the World." She takes the high school students around her and turns them into wizards and warriors, heroes and villains. It's her creative outlet to every day pressure and the social behavior of those around her, and a private outlet at that. While she makes no fuss of keeping her journals secret, she doesn't go about distributing copies of it either. That is until she accidentally e-mails it to her best friend Lindsay (Marquise C. Brown), who believes it to be an English assignment, and hands it in to the teacher for Jamie. The teacher, Ms. Gallagher (Joyce Cohen), finds it to be the most creative paper she has ever read, and it wins a schoolwide essay contest. Soon, the story is printed in the school newspaper and, not long after, it has become a national bestseller.
Life suddenly perks up for everyone in the Bartlett household. With the newfound popularity of their daughter, dad Ralph and mom Peggy (Tom Virtue of "Even Stevens" and Troll 2's Connie Young, respectively) soon find business booming at their pizza parlor. Older brother Lenny (Nick Whitaker) is a little annoyed that Jamie wrote him as a "stinky troll" in the story, and decides to focus more on his music. The publisher even hires a "handler" for Jamie, Diana (Robin Riker), who decides to seek as much publicity and exposure as possible for the young author she represents.
It's a predictable path for Jamie, as her initial mortification and embarrassment gives way to a frenzy of media publicity and school popularity. She ignores or conveniently forgets plans made with Lindsay and Harmony (Alexandra Krosney), is oblivious to the true feelings of good friend Connor (Jason Dolley, "Corey in the House"), and is ecstatic when the cute-but-dumb popular guy Marco (Chad Broskey) asks her to the Deep Blue Sea Dance. In between forgetting her true friends and chumming with the popular-because-everyone-is-afraid-of-her Sawyer Sullivan (Allison Scagliotti-Smith), Jamie can skip classes to attend press parties, photo shoots, and television talk shows. Pretty soon, Jamie finds herself living the type of lifestyle anyone would want, with endless fame and empty love from complete strangers. She just doesn't realize how much she has alienated herself from her friends and family. It doesn't help that through it all, visions of Is (Danielle Panabaker, Sky High) are egging her on.
The story takes a turn for the worse when Jamie accidentally makes a Freudian slip and inadvertently reveals that everyone in the book was based on students in her school. The evil witch Myrna is Jamie's conception of Sawyer, who starts a smear campaign throughout the whole school which leaves students who once praised Jamie now hating her. When Jamie tries to get her friends to help her stop it,
Jamie's complete 180° turn from shy sweet student to snotty fake media girl doesn't seem to fit well with her character at all, and her realization of what she has become is unique. Jamie "realizes" that her persona has become that of her own character Is, and attempts to suppress her. It initially plays out comically, with early scenes having Is appear and offer Jamie thoughts on what to do. Is's appearances could be interpreted as Jamie's imagination or her own thoughts voiced through an incarnation of Is. As the movie progresses, Is develops beyond Jamie's inner thoughts, and their arguments and conversations give Is a mind of her own. Soon, others notice Jamie talking to herself, or facing somebody that isn't there. While the writers likely intended these scenes as comic ones, Jamie's visions of Is border on schizophrenia (which itself translates as "splitting of the mind"). I don't think the Disney Channel really intended to provide a pre-adolescent schizophrenic heroine for other girls to look up to, but the signs and clues are there. If not schizophrenia, then perhaps Is is a representation of Jamie's "id", the unconscious and passionate drives and desires of a person. At this point, I should probably stop and remember that this is a DCOM we're talking about, not A Beautiful Mind. While I'm sure serious discussion and roundtable critical analysis are possible for this film, such psychological debates would likely go over the heads of the pre-teen viewer, and most adults probably wouldn't even care. So, beyond that brief foray into the human psyche, how is the rest of the movie?
I'd like to say that it's one of those "give it a chance" films, but it's not.
The rest of the cast is stuck in your basic high-school-movie roles, and I can't fault them for it, as there's only so many ways to be the dumb jock, the weird environmentalist sidekicks, the sensitive brother, or the nasty popular queen bee. Like I said, it isn't Masterpiece Theatre, and their portrayals in the clichιd roles are some of the better ones I've seen. I feel I should give some notice to Jason Dolley. He seems to be a young actor with great potential, even if stuck in the most tired high school archetype ever. As Connor Kennedy, the boy in love with Jamie, he is the answer to Pretty in Pink's Duckie, only much more normal and much less obnoxious.
While the actors give adequate turns in their roles, the characters are as bland as you get. I don't mind having a best friend obsessed with saving every creature on the earth or a quiet "I'll always stand by you" guy that can't tell a girl he likes her, but a little pizzazz could strengthen them and make them more relatable to the audience. The movie's resolution to the movie comes too quickly and I feel that Jamie was too easily forgiven. The whole film's pacing is abrupt, moving from scene to scene without letting viewers take a breath. One minute you're supposed to cheer for Jamie getting popular, then the next minute, you're shaking your head and saying "tsk-tsk" to her for abandoning her friends. If the movie had slowed down a bit and let moments take their time to sink in to the audience, it would have made for a better film.
If there is any lesson to be learned here, it's a simple one. Don't keep a journal. I kid, of course. Like any Disney Channel movie, the basic themes of being yourself and accepting others for who they are remain present. The best lesson of all could be to accept your faults and to embrace and learn from them. Read It and Weep is certainly not the best film of 2006, but at least it succeeds in getting its message across, however outrageous the circumstances and plot are. It's a safe little movie that I'm sure has its share of fans, and ultimately is a feel-good tween film that doesn't fall into any specific genre.
The DVD hits the shelves in a spiffy "Zapped Edition" which is only understandable to those who saw the film and is still a corny title regardless. I would have pushed for "Save the Whales Edition" or "Schizophrenic Edition", but those titles would be even more confusing.
VIDEO and AUDIO
Once again, viewers will have to settle for the original broadcast version of the film, in its 4:3 glory. If anyone hasn't been keeping up, Disney Channel movies are filmed framed for both widescreen and fullscreen aspect ratios. This helps to keep the image safe from chopping off a face on the edge of a screen and holding all the action in the center. At this point, though, I find the dual-ratio practice to be pointless. Why bother shooting in two formats if Disney only ever plans to release the inferior one on TV and DVD? It's a waste, if you ask me. (Editor's note: A waste now, but just wait until the Disney Channel goes High-Def. They laughed at Walt for making "Disneyland" in color, you know. Didn't they?)
As for the actual picture quality, there's not much to complain about. It's a telemovie, so don't expect to see unique camera angles or creative color schemes. The video is as clear as can be with inexpensive digital shooting, though outdoor scenes appear a bit lighter than others, with the colors less defined and more dull.
Audio comes in a 5.1 track that may as well be a two-channel stereo. Jamie narrates through nearly half the movie, which is as exciting as the multi-channel audio gets. There is one minor gaffe that I noticed, likely an editing error from post-production. When Ms. Gallagher is first reading aloud the story "Is Saves the World", she repeats the lines about Marco Vincent. It's faint, as Jamie's narration and other dialogue are in the forefront, but is quite noticeable. My guess is they took the camera angle from another take and forgot to fix the audio.
BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING
Two featurettes are included in the "Backstage Disney" section, though neither offers much and both share a sizable quantity of the same interview footage. "Making of Read It and Weep" (4:30) briefly covers a range of topics from keeping a journal to making the movie, and how everyone became friends. ("Hey, what's it like making a movie?" "It's so cool, man, we all had fun!").
The second featurette is actually divided into chapters, but don't get excited, it's not a multi-part documentary. They're simply two "DCOM Extras" (3:47) which aired on the Disney Channel prior to the movie's premiere. The first DCOM Extra focuses on which cast members keep journals ("I do!" "I do!" "I don't!" "Yeah, you do!"), and the second finds the Panabaker sisters discussing their career as sibling thespians. Much of the cast's comments during the journal DCOM Extra were already used in the first featurette, so it's easily skippable. Still, it's nice to see relevant stuff that aired make the DVD, which is far from usual.
If it were up to me, I would retitle the sole feature of "Music & More" as "Watch It and Weep." I've never had a soft spot for Jordan Pruitt, nor for her music, but for those who do, a two-minute video for "Outside Looking In" is included. The music video interweaves various types of students taking class photos with the teenybopper singing a depressing song about how "you don't know how it feels to be on the outside...looking in."
All in all, those ten minutes of bonus material are better than nothing, though they really are just ten minutes of nothing. The DVD could have gotten creative and included some interactive "You Save The Whales!" set-top game that allows you to dump seaweed on people, or maybe even a 16-page booklet/insert that is the complete story for Is Saves The World. Still, not every DCOM will be as successful as the twice-released-on-DVD High School Musical, so if these little bits tickle your fancy and you liked the movie enough, what's offered here shouldn't be too bad.
The disc art offers the Panabaker sisters in a not-too-appealing complexion, thanks to Disney's practice of making disc art translucent). Inside the case is a simple two-sided insert holding chapter listings and an ad for several DCOM DVDs. A four-page booklet offers a Disney Movie Rewards code, and even more ads for Disney Channel soundtracks, spin-offs, and original movies. On the DVD case is a coupon that offers a $6 off (expires March 17) for consumers who buy Read It and Weep: Zapped Edition or That's So Suite Life of Hannah Montana: Mixed-Up, Mashed-Up Edition with another Disney Channel DVD from a select list of recent titles.
There's no FastPlay here, though the disc still starts with skippable previews for Peter Pan: Platinum Edition, Meet the Robinsons, Jump In!, and Cinderella III: A Twist in Time. From the first page of the Sneak Peaks menu, you'll find even more previews, this time for The Cheetah Girls 2: Cheetah-licious Edition, the Tinker Bell movie, High School Musical Remix DVD, and the concurrently-released That's So Suite Life of Hannah Montana: Mixed-Up, Mashed-Up Edition.
Menus are 16x9-enhanced with simplistic animation of clips and that quaint "this must be a TV movie" background music.
Read It and Weep plays things safe, offering a quick and silly story at too fast a pace to be taken seriously. The actors, while talented in their own rights, merely are along for the ride in their uninspired roles. The premise could have yielded far more engaging results, but what viewers get is something all too brief and unrealistic. The movie will still have its share of fans, in the same age range as the characters, but beyond the tween market, there is little that is worth the interest and attention of older viewers. The DVD is adequate, and is likely the best bet to experience the movie as opposed to going out of your way to catch a re-airing on Disney Channel.
When I was seven years old, a new show on PBS called "Ghostwriter" had premiered. It involved a non-corporeal ghost who communicated to a select group of kids by rearranging letters and words around him. Through that series I learned about Louise Fitzhugh's novel Harriet the Spy, which would become a childhood favorite that I still pick up to read from time to time. A film adaptation of that book was made in 1996 by Nickelodeon and starred Michelle Trachtenberg, Rosie O'Donnell, and Gregory Smith. Rent that film if you're in the mood for a story where a girl's journal is read by everybody else. It predates Read It and Weep by ten years, but offers far superior treatment of the same premise and carries half the price tag .
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UltimateDisney.com | DVD Reviews Index | Upcoming DVDs | Recent DVDs | Disney Channel TV Series on DVD | Search UD
Reviewed January 17, 2007.
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UltimateDisney.com | DVD Reviews Index | Upcoming DVDs | Recent DVDs | Disney Channel TV Series on DVD | Search UD
Reviewed January 17, 2007.