I can ruin the term Disney Movies by adding one word. Disney Channel Movies. Even when Disney Movies were at their worst thinking that movies like Home on the Range and Chicken Little were acceptable, nothing matched how terrible the stuff that came out of their TV department. They were lit as brightly as humanely possibly, always seemed to take place in a high school and were cheesy rubbish. Some people do have some nostalgia for these films, but I would advise them not to watch them again so that their fond memories can stay intact. Of course talking about Disney Channel Movies is completely unrelated to the film I’m reviewing today, Status Update.
Kyle Moore (Ross Lynch, Austin & Ally) is struggling with his move to a new school with the popular kids bullying him as he does not fit in. However he gets all the answers to his problems when a mysterious man (Josh Ostrovsky, Nerve) gives him a new phone with an app that changes the world around him with a status update.
So it’s pretty obvious from my opening that I’m going to compare this a lot to Disney Channel Movies but I’m going to wait on doing that and instead compare this to 90s high school movies. If you have seen any of them, they all revolve around a kid moving to a new school usually from California to some anonymous place in the Mid West, getting bullied before impressing the kids in his school with a talent that revolves around the latest fad, getting the girl in the process. This is pretty much the same as that but with the writers being on a lot of drugs. Whether it is the mysterious man who gives Kyle the phone, where if cannabis is not involved in some way I’ll be seriously shocked, or this running joke as Kyle’s sister Maxi (Brec Bassinger, The Goldbergs) becomes more anime-fied as her relationship with her Chinese boyfriend progresses. Yes the movie seems to think anime is from China but that’s the least of its problems. But even with the madness imbued into this film, it’s still predictable from beginning to the end.
No seriously, this movie goes from beat to beat as if oblivious that it is a story that as not been told a million times before. Yes, we’ve seen a teenager move to a new school where he does not fit in before and gets bullied by the jocks. Then we’ve seen how he does get some friends in the lower rungs of the popularity chain, a hopeless geek and a very attractive girl who probably would be popular if this was in real life. Then we’ve seen through whatever gimmick the movie has that the teenager ends up getting popular and forgetting his real friends in emotionally devastating ways. Then the teenager realises and does some big climactic thing which makes everyone like him again and all is well. Yep, this movie does all of that as if they aren’t clichés that are older than me.
So what about this gimmick? Well as said at the top, there is an app where Kyle can update his status and whatever he says in that status will come true. It’s actually a pretty decent concept, nothing too original but having it as an app is a handy way of updating it to the modern era. Ok with all the clunky name drops of social media at every turn it is obviously that the people who wrote this are middle aged people who don’t really know their Twitters from their Facebook, but it’s not the worst attempt at trying to target a young audience. It’s just in the end that there was no need for it to be an app. Honestly, it’s basically a version of a macguffin. It could have been a genie or a monkey’s paw but it is an app because that might attract their target audience to the cinema. It’s all a bit pointless.
Let’s get to the Disney Channel feeling about all of this then because I have to justify that opening paragraph some how. The reason those made for TV films come to mind is because of the way this is shot identically to them. This is an over-lit movie where even scenes in the dark are brighter than daylight in the UK. Though that’s more an issue with the lack of daylight we get in the winter months in this country the more the think you about it. And the movie has weird flights of fancy that you usually only see in Disney Channel Movies such as out of nowhere musical sequences and really silly jokes that will make adults groan and kids laugh. Probably, I’m not a kid. Because of this, the film doesn’t feel like it belongs in the cinemas and that it should be on the Disney Channel where it would keep its target audience amused and people like me would never have to know they existed.
This is normally where I would spend a few hours in my chair delaying the inevitable and eventually finding something to nice to say. But instead of doing that as it would be a waste of your time and my time, I want to discuss a certain character. There is a character named Brian (Markian Tarasiuk, Shut Eye) who is gay. And by gay, I mean so camp that he makes Julian Clary look like a linebacker for the New England Patriots. And of course he is one of the villains because Kyle gets into the band instead of him, though because he’s gay of course he not so secretly fancies our lead. This is such a homophobic depiction of a gay character, something that you might have got away with in the 90s when LGBT people would take any sort of representation in mainstream media but in 2018 when we are getting more and more nuanced LGBT characters, this is unacceptable.
Status Update is just a Disney Channel Movie that has some how wormed its way into the cinema. It has clichés that are old for anyone who has managed to enter their teen years and does the same story that so many others have done over the last few decades. Just because it is aimed at a new generation which may not be as familiar with the tropes doesn’t make it acceptable. And there’s that weird bout of homophobia with the gay character who is more camp than RuPaul’s Drag Race and fits into old damaging stereotypes which I thought we had left in the past. Don’t share this one.