Disney's Original Movie Double Feature
Dadnapped (May 27/09)
As befits its place as a Disney Channel original movie, Dadnapped has been entirely stripped of elements designed to appeal to viewers over a certain age - which effectively ensures that although small children might find something worth embracing here, adults will be left rolling their eyes at the shamelessly over-the-top (and distinctly juvenile) shenanigans on display. The movie stars Emily Osment as Melissa Morris, a precocious high schooler who embarks on a camping vacation with her father (George Newbern's Neal). Problems ensue after Neal, a famous author of adolescent fantasy books, is kidnapped by two dim-witted goons (Phill Lewis' Maurice and Charles Halford's Skunk), with Melissa's subsequent efforts at rescuing her dad assisted by a trio of enthusiastic superfans (David Henrie's Wheeze, Moises Arias' Andre, and Denzel Whitaker's Sheldon). Director Paul Hoen - working from a script by Alan Silberberg - has infused Dadnapped with an atmosphere of pervasive silliness that proves oppressive almost immediately, as the filmmaker's decision to blanket the proceedings with hopelessly broad elements plays an instrumental role in its undeniable downfall. The degree to which the movie has been dumbed-down to appeal to kids is subsequently nothing short of astonishing, and although the novelty of Newbern's presence periodically buoys one's interest, Dadnapped's lowest-common-denominator modus operandi ensures that it fits comfortably within the Disney Channel's roster of underwhelming original movies.
Hatching Pete (May 28/09)
A slight cut above its made-for-the-Disney-Channel brethren, Hatching Pete stars Jason Dolley as Pete Ivey - an unassuming high schooler whose self-confidence receives a palpable boost after his eccentric best friend (Mitchel Musso's Cleatis Poole) asks him to wear an oversized rooster costume at the school's basketball games (Cleatis, though from a long line of mascots, is allergic to the feathery outfit). Pete's years of trampoline experience ensure that he inevitably comes off as a far more competent mascot than his buddy, and its not long before the entire student body is rooting for the oddly acrobatic rooster's success - yet Pete's crush on a comely cheerleader (Josie Loren's Angela) takes a hit as it becomes increasingly clear that she's only interested in the boy that she believes resides within the garish duds (which would be, of course, Cleatis). It's an almost hopelessly hackneyed premise that's employed to relatively painless effect by screenwriter Paul W. Cooper, with excessive instances of puerility thankfully kept to a minimum (although Musso's relentless mugging does get tiresome almost immediately). It doesn't hurt that the movie has been populated with an affable selection of performers, as Dolley (his puzzling, thoroughly distracting hair notwithstanding) offers up a charismatic turn that's matched by a surprisingly strong supporting cast (with Edward Herrmann's work as the school's principal an obvious highlight). The semi-watchable atmosphere persists until around the half-way mark, after which point the lack of plot - coupled with a tendency towards repetition - becomes increasingly difficult to overlook. It's subsequently not surprising to note that Hatching Pete fizzles out in a fairly substantial way before reaching its inevitable conclusion, with the final result a teen-friendly endeavor that's admittedly not quite as intolerable as one might've expected.