Saturday, August 15, 2020

Treasure of Matecumbe

 Jordan Bradt:  I love old movies, so as I was scrolling Disney+, this one popped up.  My son was actually interested, so we started it.  He was enthralled the entire time.  I was, too.  I LOVE movies about the Civil War era.  

Oh man, did this one have it all.  The movie took off and it kept going right up until the end.  Adventure after adventure went BAM in your face.  Some highlights for me--

1. The opening music is quite 70s.  Love it.

2. Ben wants to go get the treasure.  The Yankees kill Ben.  Um, why?  They thought Ben knew where the treasure was.  Why would you kill him and not take him captive?

3. The plantation they need to save with the treasure is called Grassy.  Yes, Grassy.  That seemed like such a weird name.  Every time they said it, it rubbed me the wrong way.

4. I didn't really get Davie's home life.  Where were Mom and Dad?  I didn't get the family dynamics.  I thought one of the women at the beginning was his mom, but I guess they were his aunts?

5. I was not expecting the Klu Flux Klan and the lynching! 

6. Uncle Jim was supposed to be this total rogue.  I don't get why he was being attacked by the KKK.  Throughout the movie, he was kind and noble.  He never did anything to give him that reputation. Lauriette was more of a rogue than he was.

7. I was thinking Lauriette was going to be a bad guy, but she turned out to be strong and noble too.  I was glad she got with Uncle Jim.  

8. Dr. Snodgrass was the voice of Prince John in Robin Hood, one of my favorite Disney cartoons!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Jumping Ship

Stephanie Bradt: Horse Sense must have done well enough for the Disney Channel, as its sequel, Jumping Ship, was released two years later in 2001. This time, all three Lawrence Brothers star. Tommy is still caring for the horses on the family ranch and missing his deceased father, now with the added drama of Mark, his mother’s new love interest. Mark seems like a nice guy, but Tommy wants nothing to do with him because he does not want anyone to replace his dad. Meanwhile back in California, Michael is still a lazy, but loveable dirtbag. We first see him wading in his family’s swimming pool as his father implores him to get a job. One of the things Michael is spending his Daddy’s money on is his upcoming trip to Australia with Tommy.

Things don’t start out great in Australia. Michael thinks he rented a yacht but is surprised and disappointed to find that the Tiffany is a crappy old boat. Its captain is Jake Hunter, played by the long-lost middle Lawrence brother, Matthew! Anyway, while Michael putters around as his snobby-Michael self, Tommy and Jake bond. Then Michael finally realizes that he was pickpocketed and does not have the money to pay for the boat, which causes even more tension between him and Jake. 

It seems like this is already the vacation from hell, but all this drama takes a back seat when, cue Jack Sparrow’s theme, three Australian pirates try to take over the ship. Yes, it turns out the pickpocketer is also part of a pirate. The Lawrence brothers need to work together to out-run and out-smart the pirates and get home safely.

  • I wasn’t a fan of this movie. I usually love stuff with deserted island survival, but I had no need for the extreme Disney corniness of the goofy Australian pirates, random crocodile, and crazy emu. 
  • This time, the brothers are credited as Joseph, Matthew, and Andrew instead of Joey and Andy from the last movie. They clearly mean business with this one. Some serious thespians right there.
  • Matthew portrays Jake Hunter in this movie, fresh off his stint on Boy Meets World playing Jack Hunter.
  • I vaguely remember when they were advertising this movie on the Disney Channel. I kept understanding the phrase "jumping ship" as a ship that was jumping. Not that there are people who are jumping ship, as the saying goes. I don't know. The jury is out on if I was a moron or not. 
  • I prefer the more character-driven Horse Sense, as Jumping Ship relied more on high stakes action and Disney danger. But maybe I am just old. 
  • Disney is clearly highlighting the shirtless Lawrence boys. I feel like that drove the decision to set half of this film on a tropical island.
  • Why are the pirates so obsessed with these guys in particular? I know they were after Michael’s family’s money, but really? There is no one else to prey on? And I thought the open sea was a pirate’s home field advantage; continuing their terrorism on a mysterious island just seems like a lot of work. I feel like it would have been more worth their time if they had waited until Michael went home and then emailed him as a Nigerian prince. I think they would have been successful, as Michael is not the brightest crayon in the box. 
  • Once again Michael’s “redemption” has me scratching my head. After the boys thwart the pirates and escape to the safety of the Australian mainland, Michael is like “hey guys, I used our reward money to buy the pirates’ boat! We own a charter company now!” Just like in Horse Sense, where Michael “helps” by shoving the ranch that Aunt Jules doesn’t want back in her face, he unilaterally decides that the three of them, who live in different parts of the world, are going into business together. Not to mention he met Jake like five minutes ago. Or that four minutes ago, Jake told him that he doesn’t even like working 
Jordan Bradt: I really liked Horse Sense.  This one?  Not so much.  It was nice as a family movie.  I guess.  My son was bored through the whole thing, but he's 3.  I was also bored during some parts and I'm 32.  
  • What was up with the pirates?  They were quite classy looking.  Are pirates always that clean?  Why are there always pirates in these movies?  I know that was tjhe point of the movie, but how common are pirates in real life?
  • Clearly Joey learned nothing in the first movie.  He was just as shallow.  I would have liked to see more character development.  He was on his phone for the first half ignoring his poor cousin - again.  The ending too was dumb.  He never learned anything.  He just jumps into things.  Heh, "jumping ship."
  • Jake was blah.  I didn't get him.  He was pretty rude through the entire movie, and I don't think they deserved it.  I get that Joey was kind of a jerk, but he was also misled.  Jake could have been a lot nicer.  They were his customers.  The tension between them seemed needless.  Jake also seemed pretty young to man his own boat, even though we do get some backstory for the character.  
  • I thought the kid's name was Ben up until the end.  His name was Tommy.  He explains about the ranch he and his mom work now, without owning it, and he didn't sound happy.  I don't think Joey's plan in Horse Sense was good at all.
  • Why exactly did Jake have to abandon the?  Why didn't he think the pirates would see them on the deserted island?  Wouldn't it have been better to not get off onto the deserted island?  Then again, I'm not a boat captain, so I don't know.
  • Maybe this was more of a boy movie?  
  • Joey had really good cell service out in the ocean surrounding Australia.  
  • Are you supposed to put on so many seasick patches?


Stephanie Bradt: Andy “Brink” Brinker is the title character of the 1998 DCOM, Brink! He is played by Erik Von Detten, apparently Disney’s go-to for a stereotypical California boy, just like the one he plays in The Princess Diaries three years later. Brink is a skater boy who likes to use made up words such as “chornage,” which is Skater Boy for “chores.” Brink and his friends call themselves “soul skaters,” but Brink is the only one who seems to have the annoying California voice, hair, and mannerisms.

The rivals of the soul skaters are Val and his Team X-Bladz, mean skaters who have a sponsorship (of course). Brink is a good person, but he kind of sells out to join Team X-Bladz for $200 a week. He wants to make it big in skating because he wants an identity, but he also has the sympathetic motivation of fixing his family’s financial woes. Brink is further alienated from his friends when one of his group gets hurt due to Val cheating during a race. Brink feels bad and has a heart to heart with his dad and decides to go back to skating for the right reasons. His dramatic exit from Team X-Bladz consists of throwing milkshake into Val’s face, because Disney. Brink makes it up to his team and once again joins them to compete against Team X-Bladz. Of course, the games culminate in a final, dangerous downhill race: Val vs. Brink. And of course, Val is a jerk and tries to cheat his way to victory, but Brink and company come out on top, while Val’s douchey antics are caught on camera. 

Brink! had pretty good sports action, as well as some wholesome moments. It has a good message of friendship with the good guys ending up happy and the bad guys getting what they deserve. In other words, a solid Disney Channel Original Movie.

Some other thoughts:

  • According to Wikipedia, this movie is loosely based on a novel an 1865 novel about a Dutch speedskater named Hans Brinker! Where has this book been all my life?!
  • The banker from Horse Sense and Even Stevens dad, is now a boring science teacher. This guy might be in every Disney thing ever.
  • I liked the dad because he was funny and sarcastic, but still a good dad. I shared his frustration with his son’s poor use of the English language. 
  • This is yet another movie where schoolkids have a sponsorship. Kids watching these movies back in the day must have thought that this is something common or easy to achieve.
  • Brink is 110% California surfer/skater/valley dude, yet his friends seem quite nerdy other than the whole skater thing.
  • I loved the melodrama when Gabriella got hurt. When Brink visits her to apologize, she is in bed in her dark bedroom in a deep depression. She took a bad spill onto the pavement, but really? Now she is bed-ridden? She’s not dying. And then like five minutes later, she is back to competing like nothing ever happened.
Jordan Bradt:  It took me forever to watch this movie, because my son instantly hated it.  He's 3, and I guess rollerblades aren't his thing yet.  I had to watch it in small increments with him, and eventually he wandered off.  He missed out on the end.  Oh well.

This was another solid DCOM.  It had some good values regarding friendship, honesty, and family relationships.  The dad and Bring didn't get along, but Dad kept trying to connect with Brink.  We got to understand Dad's reasoning.  He wasn't one-dimensional.  Their relationship was realistic.

I only had a few issues:

  • How easy is it to get a sponsorship?  It basiclaly fell into Brink's lap.  Is that common for teenagers?  
  • Why was Bring the only guy to talk like that?  It felt weird.  They were in California, and it would have felt more well-rounded if at least one other person talked like that.
  • The Soul Skaters were jerks to people around them.  Jumping over diners?  Ruining their food?  They were great skaters, but not the best of people.  
  • Like what Stephanie said above, Gabriella's accident was weird.  She got hurt.  It looked painful.  Did she need to be bedridden?  She got right back up!  

Smart House

Stephanie Bradt: I had the privilege of re-watching Smart House (1999) and I was relieved to find that I still like it. It is still in my top 3 DCOMs. This is also probably the one I remember best so either it really made that much of an impression on me when I was a youngster or I watched it 37 times. Or both. 

So I press “Play” and I’m watching the opening titles and WHAT?! Apparently LeVar Burton directed this film. I even checked to confirm that it was that LeVar Burton. I didn’t know he even know he directed movies. So right off the bat, I like this movie even more now compared to 20+ years ago, which I don’t think ever happens. Anyway, we open with the ubiquitous DCOM star Ryan Merriman as Ben and his cute and sassy little sister (check), who also played the cute and sassy little sister in Brink. We also learn that the mom is no longer living (check). 

Ben misses his mom and is very protective of the family staying the way it is, so he is being a—I won’t use the vulgar term that I’m thinking of right now, but Ben is doing his best to sabotage any potential dates his father might have by tying up the phone line all hours of the night with his web-surfing. (Dial-up; how quaint). He enters a contest and is awarded the title “Smart House,” a big cool house run by artificial intelligence (call her Pat). Pat is basically the Siri or Alexa before their time. As with many other stories involving robots, Pat gets out of hand and we learn once again that technology can be scary and that in a family, you just can’t replace human beings.

More thoughts:

  • We get a lot of 1999 technology action between the old school instant messaging, entering contests via “electronic mail,” and letting the house phone’s answering machine pick up the call when you’re on your way out.
  • I was pleased to see that they live in a normal-ish, somewhat modest and less extravagant house than people normally do in these movies, but I guess that was just so that it could be a better contrast to their eventual Smart House. Why bother winning a house that is less awesome and cool than the one you’re already living in?
  • The music! Even over 20 years later, the stupid “Jump, jump, the house is jumping” song is branded into my brain. I can’t think of this movie without thinking of that song and being transported back to 1999. And yes, I had that B*Witched CD back in the day. Not to mention the score—they took the mockingbird song and made it totally creepy as Pat got creepier.
  • The floor absorbers are introduced in the beginning of the movie, but then later on when Pat helps the kids clean up by using the floor absorbers, they are like “Wow!” Um, you knew about this already…
  • I forgot all the little romance stuff but I enjoyed it
  • Ben and his friends perform a little dance routine while watching a concert video (“kick-butt video screen). Even then, I wondered: Do 13-year-old boys even like, much less have a choreographed dance to, boy bands?
  • I thought everything is better now because Pat won’t go rogue and mess with their lives anymore. Yet she slips chocolate chips into their pancakes at the end! First it’s chocolate chips; next it will be like arsenic or something. We’ve seen how scary and powerful is capable of being! I’m just being paranoid? Okay.

Jordan Bradt: I remember this being a good movie from my childhood.  Not a favorite, but good.  I watched if there was nothing else on.  This time around, it was still a solid movie, but the characters didn't really grow or learn anything.  It was more about being a preteen's dream. 

1) As a kid, I thought the features of the house were wicked cool.  As a 32-year-old woman, they com with a lot of questions.  Where does the garbage go when its absorbed into the floor?  Its creepy how much the house can tell from a blood sample and breathalyzer.  The government could hack into that and know way too much about you.   Also, how does the smart house get the groceries it uses to make all the food?

2) If the house can tell you how to better play basketball, can it also tell you how to have better sex?  I would never want to have sex in this house.

3) What does the dad do for a living that he can pay the taxes on the smart house and afford to keep their old house?

4) I would have liked it if they had no real choice except to move into the smart house.  Like, they were about to lose their apartment to the building of a new hospital...or they needed a bigger house...or their house was falling down.

5) Dad was just plain horny.  He didn't know anything about Sarah, at first, except that she was hot.  He just wanted to get in her pants through the entire movie. 

6) The bully demands Ben to do his homework before lunch...but then Ben doesn't give it to him until the following day.

7) In the beginning, Dad is shown as being a doting father, but he never knew about the bully?  Even Ben acts surprised that Dad didn't know he was being bullied.

8) The house came fully furnished...even with furniture for a teenage boy and preteen girl?  Did the house materialize the furniture?

9) When images are displayed across the walls, where do the pictures and posters go?

10) How does the golf ball disappear into the wall one minute and the next golf ball ricochets around the house?

11) How many days have gone by?  Ben never brought his friends over to the house?  The friends, who knew all about Ben winning the smart house, didn't know it was a smart house?

12) If Pat is in maternal mode, why does she throw Ben a rave?  What kind of "good" mother does that?  She learned from watching vintage sitcoms, and I'm pretty sure June Cleaver never threw the Beaver a rave. 

Overall, it is a good preteen movie, and the ending was nice. 

Friday, July 31, 2020


Stephanie Bradt: Our next film was Motocrossed (2001). I can’t help but wonder: Was this always that bad? Am I just an old grouch now? This was one of my favorite DCOMs growing up. I have always enjoyed plots involving women trying to make their way in a man’s world. Girl Power movies. I also remember thinking the boys were cute. Andrew and Andrea Carson are twins who love Motocross.

Unfortunately, their dad is, at best, “old-fashioned,” therefore only Andrew is allowed to participate in competitions. The dad is as competitive with his son’s racing (which is also part of the family business) as he is fiercely protective of his daughter. So, Andrew is the one who is going to race in the tournament to hopefully win a sponsorship for the family. When Andrew (should I call them Andy and Andi?) is injured during practice, it seems all is lost, but wait! It turns out if Andi cuts her hair and dons sunglasses, she is unrecognizable as the fairer sex. Here is Andi’s chance to finally race with the big boys. Eventually her brothers and then her mother find out, but they sympathize with her and recognize that she is the better racer, so they help hide the ruse. Eventually, the secret gets out, but by then everyone is inspired by Andi and on her side and everyone is happy.

 Some of my thoughts:
 • Andrew and Andrea? Andy and Andi? Really?
 • The use of another popular plot point: the disguise that seems to fool everyone except the viewer. Just like how Superman and Clark Kent look absolutely nothing alike because Clark wears glasses and Superman does not. I had trouble getting past it this time around.
 • I always thought the love interest and the twin brother looked alike, which is super weird
 • The French kid that is supposed to race in her place is such an over the top, snobby European movie villain. He is best described by Andy and Andi’s fun little brother: “You think, like, anyone in France actually misses him?”
 • The dad is kind of emotionally abusive to Andi—he blames her for her brother’s injury. He tells her that he wants her to “start concentrating on things a 15-year-old girl should be concentrating on!” (Which is what? Make-up? Boys? You’d think the dad would be happy his daughter has a hobby she is passionate about). He also makes her give up her bedroom, out of the entire rest of the house, for French Jerk! And then even when father and daughter make up at the end, he tells her that, in fact, he always wanted a daughter instead of a son…because then he wouldn’t have to worry about her doing motocross and getting hurt. (!)
 • The love interest is instantly attracted to Andi when he meets her as Andi, even though she doesn’t look that different from Andi as Andy. And then when he finds out Andy is Andi, he gets over it quickly and the flirting commences.
 • It just ended too neatly. The whole family was pretty deceptive, and everyone was automatically okay with it.

Jordan Bradt:  This was my movie back in the day!  It made me, a total girly-girl, want to get into dirt bike racing.  I remember telling my parents I wanted a dirt bike.  They were all for it and I was so excited.  Of course, nothing ever came of that.

I wanted to love this movie so much.  My three-year-old walked out after 5 minutes, so I watched it alone, and...well...I didn't like it so much.

How did they afford that huge house, pool, and all that land if Dad had quit his job and Mom didn't work?  They didn't have the sponsorship yet.

Would the sponsorship really have given them enough money to continue their lifestyle that way?

The beginning of the movie made it sound as if Dad never let Andrea how was she so good?

Mom was such a weakling in the beginning.  I hated how meek she was whenever Dad went on a tirade.  She sort of got a backbone at the end, but the relationship didn't feel healthy.

Dean is AMAZING.  He is my new favorite DCOM crush.  He and Andrea worked so well together, and they supported each other 100%.  I want a sequel where they are raising their kids to be motocross stars.

I appreciated that Andrea didn't win her first races.  The way she fumbled was so realistic.  The others racers were realistic too, and I liked the feminism of the movie.  It was done in a tasteful way.

The ending brought back all the warm excitement I'd felt watching it as a kid.  For a second, I even wanted to get into motocross again, haha!

Would I watch it again right away?  I would.  Do I recommend it for preteens?  Definitely.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Horse Sense

If you were like us, you grew up glued to the TV screen every so often to catch the latest DCOM.  You know they were awesome and the highlight of your life.  You went to school afterwards unable to talk about anything else.

We decided to re-watch some of our favorites to see how they held up to our memories.  First up - Horse Sense!

Stephanie Bradt: To begin our nostalgic journey through some of the Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) repertoire, we started with the 1999 movie, Horse Sense. It stars Joey and Andy Lawrence, two of the three Lawrence brothers who I remember being popular at the time. This movie came out after all three brothers starring in the sitcom Brotherly Love together. We begin with Tommy (Andy Lawrence) departing his Montana home to visit his cousin, Michael (Joey Lawrence), in Los Angeles. Tommy’s mother thinks this trip will be good for Tommy, whose father had recently passed away. Michael is a stereotypically spoiled and preppy rich kid who has never worked a day in his life. He has an extremely annoying girlfriend, who is basically a walking caricature of a valley girl.

Throughout Tommy’s visit, Michael is a jerk and neglects his cousin in favor of his irritating girlfriend. Tommy returns home to Montana after a couple weeks of watching movies by himself all day long. Tommy has an opportunity for revenge when he gets to return the favor: Michael’s parents send him to Montana to learn to be a good person and not a dirt bag. The ensuing plot is Michael learning the value of hard work while bonding with only-child Tommy as Tommy comes to terms with his father’s death. Horse Sense was a decent, wholesome family movie. It had your classic country life vs. city life conflict, as well as the “Oh no, we’re going to lose the ranch to foreclosure!” storyline. Throw in the obligatory dead-parent narrative, and you’ve got yourself a DCOM. A lot of it was cliché, but everything is tied up nicely, which I always appreciate in a movie.

 Some of my thoughts:
• This whole being-exiled-to-a-family-member’s-house-as-punishment thing seems to happen a lot in books and movies and I always wonder, who is punishing whom? Michael’s parents raised a brat so instead of actually parenting, they decide to pawn him off on Aunt Jules instead?! Also, Michael is a jerk so his punishment is to go to a ranch in Montana? I feel like that is insulting to the people who live there. The place isn’t prison, jeez.
 • Haha, Michael and his girlfriend had to celebrate their two week anniversary (did I hear that right?) • Tommy’s very respectful, Disney-approved line during his big argument with Michael: “I don’t like or respect you!”
 • Why was Matthew, the middle Lawrence brother, not in this movie? Maybe he was tied up with his work on Boy Meets World?
• Michael’s girlfriend. For some reason she has a perpetually bizarre look on her face—it is hard to explain; basically, she never closes her mouth
• The only glaring/entertaining time this movie really showed its age were a couple scenes with a flip phone (and the fact that Michael was fancy for having one) and the brilliant green screen—I mean, night sky—scene with the excessively bright and large shooting star.

Jordan Bradt: I went in thinking this would be incredibly cheesy.  My three-year-old son hated it and wandered off after the first 10 minutes.  However, I still enjoyed it!  It is by no means my favorite movie, and I'm not sure I would watch it again anytime soon, but I found it hard to pick it apart.

The characters were solid.  To be honest, I don't remember the little boy's name, but I GOT HIM.  His dad just died.  He's hurting.  At the family reunion, he had a good time with his cool older cousin.  He decides to go visit said cooler older cousin, and when the older cousin doesn't live up to his expectations, he retaliates in a healthy, youthful way.

The older cousin, Michael, is realistic too.  He's in college, has a new girlfriend, and the last thing he wants is to hang out with a little kid.  When he gets to the ranch, his actions and disgusts are realistic, and he learns to love the ranch.  He becomes a hard worker his parents can be proud of.

Even the resolution at the end worked for me.  Michael laid out his proposition in a business sense that worked for the bank, and he pointed out the other failing ranches in the area.  It wasn't some miraculous cure-all.

I only had a few issues, but they didn't detract from my enjoyment.

1) Gina, the girlfriend, was supposed to be a bad guy, but I got her too.  She was used to the superficial world.  She wasn't exactly leading Michael down the wrong path and she never did anything malicious.

2) However...Michael just didn't work for me with Gina.  I wanted Michael to find a girl on the ranch, and when he didn't, I was disappointed.  I get that it isn't a love story, but I wanted that for him.

3) The aunt didn't seem to even want the ranch anymore.  I got the feeling it hurt her too much to live there.  She could have taken money from her sister and paid it back.  She seemed to know the ranch would never make it, but she kept stringing her workers and son along as if she was trying.  Maybe this is unfair of me.  The movie said she had too much pride to take the money.  If she really wanted to save the ranch for her son, wouldn't she have accepted the loan from Michael's family?