Laura Clifford Robin CliffordWhen Mary Cep (Lindsay Lohan, "Freaky Friday") discovers her mother is moving the family from her beloved Manhattan to New Jersey, first she freaks out, then she renames herself Lola to gild her theatrical presence for her new, drabber surroundings. On her first day at Dellwood High, Lola finds a friend in the straight and unpopular but fellow Sidarthur enthusiast Ella (Alison Pill, "Pieces of April"), makes an enemy in clique queen Carla Santini (Megan Fox), whose father is Sidarthur lead singer Stu Wolff's lawyer, and attracts an admirer in Sam (Eli Marienthal, "American Pie"). Lola's outlandish adventures spur Carla to brand her a liar as the duo battle over the lead in the school play and invitations to the after show party of Sidarthur's last concert in "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen."
Disney is promoting "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" by associating it with last year's delightful "Freaky Friday" remake, but the only similarity between the two films is star Lindsay Lohan. Director Sara Sugarman ("Very Annie Mary") has delivered a teen film that is shrill, numbing and painful to sit through. Maybe this movie will find an audience in children young enough to be entertained by bright colors. Otherwise, only Carol Kane ("Addams Family Values") provides entertainment with her odd but sweet drama teacher, Miss Baggoli, a woman whose appearance may be stuck in the 1940s, but whose directorial predilection is to modernize "Pygmalion."
Screenwriter Gail Parent (TV's "Payne") makes her heroine a highly competitive individual whose exploits must be believed by others to give them any weight. She befriends those who will not outshine her, but is magnanimous to those whom she betters. The drama queen angle is only intermittently played for middling laughs, all mother Karen's (Glenne Headly, "Dick Tracy") for her wry play-by-plays over the telephone to ex-husband Calum (Tom McCamus). Lola makes one elaboration that comes back to haunt her, covering her parents' split with a romantic story of her father's death. (Seeing as how Lola apparently loves her dad, this is an odd choice for her to make, to say the least.) Lola's egocentric view of the world also means that any real sense of family life is unaccounted for her and her obvious romantic interest merely stands around and smiles a lot.
Lohan is a likeable young actress who gets an opportunity to show off her singing and dancing talents here, but her enthusiasm fails to spark this dreadful film. Pill, so fabulous in "Pieces of April," is OK here as a voice of reason who gradually comes out of her shell under Lola's influence, but the script forces her to be a bit of a wet blanket. Headly's laid back performance almost makes her disappear amidst the chaos, but McCamus injects some warmth as Lola's dad, who shadows her while she traipses about the city on concert night. Adam Garcia ("Coyote Ugly") gives an overly broad performance as Lola's hero Stu Wolff, perhaps to lessen the reality of an alcohol abusing rock star within this little girl's fantasy film. Sheila McCarthy ("I Heard the Mermaids Singing") is wasted as Ella's disapproving mother, but Kane hits one out of the park as the strict and severe spinster Baggoli (kudos also due to costumer David C. Robinson and hairstylist Veronica Ciandre in realizing this character).
Sugarman and cinematographer Stephen H. Burum ("Life or Something Like It") employ a bit of live action mixed with animation shots, but they aren't used consistently enough to give the film a style. The final climatic high school production of "Eliza Rocks" is the epitome of the overblown 'Broadway comes to your local school hall' stagings that have become so cliched. Granted, we are supposed to be seeing things through Lola's enhanced reality, but even after the play appears to have come to its conclusion, the show continues with an MTV number complete with professional backup dancers that would have been more appropriate accompanying the closing credits.
This is Disney's worst outing in recent memory. With "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" they have much to atone for.
Mary Elizabeth Cep (Lindsay Lohan), or, as she prefers to be called, Lola, sees herself as and up and coming star of the Broadway stage when her mother moves the family from Manhattan to the wilds of suburban New Jersey. Suddenly, she is no longer the center of attention but an outsider who must struggle to exist in “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen.”
“Confessions” has two things going for it that it should not: The Disney Studios brand name and a very loose association with last year’s sleeper hit “Freaky Friday,” which co-starred Lohan. These two factors are going to have a positive effect on the opening weekend box office for this latest Disney venture. Unfortunately, “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” is a very silly, poorly written piece of work that would best be left to die a horrible death on the video rental shelf.
Be forewarned. There is little to nothing in this film that will appeal to anyone except maybe the most undiscriminating 8-to-12-year old girls out there. Theatrically-bent Lola is forced to abandon her beloved Manhattan when her free-spirited, pottery-making, single mom, Karen (Glenn Headley), ups and moves her little family to Dellwood, NJ. The flamboyant teen dresses in her own unique fashion and heads off for her first day at her new high school where she just knows that she will be popular – until she meets the alpha female of her class, Carla Santini (Megan Fox). The beautiful, rich and bitchy Carla has no intention of letting this Johnny-come-lately intrude on her turf.
Lola hooks up with plain, nervous Ella (Allison Pill) who is in awe of the sophisticated and worldly newcomer. Lola, nee Mary, tells her new friend all manner of tall tales, including the tragic motorcycle death of her rock star father. The two girls have something in common, though, when they discover their mutual adoration for the band Sidarthur. When they discover that the group is breaking up and planning a farewell performance in a month’s time, Lola announces that they are going to the show and attend the band’s after party in Soho. A wrench is thrown into the works when Carla proclaims that her father, attorney for the band, has procured for her both tickets to the show and an invite to the after party. To make matters worse, Lola and Ella discover that the concert is sold out.
Unperturbed by the minor difficulties, the ever positive Lola declare that they will by tickets from a scalper on the night of the concert and, of course, they will be able to crash the party with no problem. Things go awry, as expected, and they are blocked from the concert and must wander Soho in the pouring rain to find the soiree. You can guess, in this little fairytale, just how things will turn out.
Just so you don’t think that the Sidarthur show and party are the main part of “Confessions” there is also the story line that has the school’s drama teacher, Miss Baggoli (Carol Kane in the film’s only decent performance), making plans to put on a play, the updated version of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion.” Drama queen Lola tries out for the play, a musical in Miss Baggoli’s version, belts out a song and clinches the lead role, much to Carla’s chagrin. The play, the concert and party and the teen rivalry are all packed into a scant 86 minutes run time (with credits). But, instead of making this a brisk, fast moving teen comedy, “Confessions” is interminable and, at times, downright boring. When I check the time, thinking that the film is nearly over only to discover a mere 35 minutes has passed, I know I’m in trouble.
Young Lohan, whom I liked a lot in “Freaky Friday,” takes the role that, I believe, was originally supposed to go to Hilary Duff. I cringed at the thought of Duff as Lola and thought, going in to “Confessions,” that Lohan has to be an improvement. She isn’t, in the hands of first time helmer Sara Sugarman, and the actress is hamstrung with the usual clichés of bad teen movies.
The story, from the book by Dyan Sheldon and adapted by Gail Parent is a mishmash of teen angst, jealousy, envy, bubbly optimism and silly premises. De rigueur in a film like this, the star has a wardrobe that makes it possible to never have to wear the same outfit twice. As usual, too, the obstacles are always overcome in a breezy way and Lola’s dreams are all readily fulfilled. And, in true Hollywood fashion, when the play, “Eliza Rocks,” is performed in the big finale, it is on par with the marvelous Busby Berkley musicals of the 1930s. (Why is it that school plays, in Hollywood movies, also seem to have a budget bigger than a Broadway show?)
For a teen fantasy/comedy there is a woeful lack of humor through the length of “Confessions.” It should appeal to very young teenage girls or people who are easily amused watching shiny things. I give it a D-.
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