(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from Cadet Kelly)
Doug (vo): Let's take a look at Cadet Kelly. Yeah, it's pretty obvious I'm not the target demographic for this film, but for the target demographic, I think this is a perfectly serviceable little flick.
Doug (vo): An artsy little free-spirit likes to hang with her divorced mom and dad, but gets a little surprised when she finds out that her mom is getting remarried to Gary Cole, playing the role of...oh, my God. I think he's just called "Sir". Do we ever know his real name? Let me IMDb that.
(The film's cast list shown on IMDb is shown, showing Gary Cole's character role is indeed named "Sir")
Doug (vo): Oh, my God! He's just called "Sir"!
(Clips of the movie resume showing)
Doug (vo): Anyway, as you probably can tell from that name, he takes the military very seriously. So not only does Kelly have to move away from her school of alternative learning...you know, where they sit on bean bags and can do assignments whenever they want and, you know, one of those super-liberal schools...and suddenly has to go to boot camp. Honestly, it's not made entirely clear why. I guess because the stepdad is there, or maybe she got in trouble a lot. Well, it doesn't look like it. I don't know. The focus is on Kelly trying to adapt with her drill sergeant, Jessica, played by Kim Possible star Chirsty Romano. She, of course, doesn't fit in, claiming that her old school was a lot different and everybody's too rough. Why, it's almost like this is military school or something. But through a lot of goof-ups, understandings and misunderstandings, she'll figure out there really is something to all this strictness, and her mother and stepdad will also figure out how to adapt to a changing world.
Doug (vo): On the surface, this sounds pretty generic, and, yeah, a good chunk of the time, it is. But there are little touches that make it stand out a little bit more from this kind of story you've heard a million times. For example, I like that she comes from this really open school where they do, like, arts and crafts and are super gentle. That makes a much better contrast and understanding of why she doesn't fit in. The family dilemma is also interesting, too. The father is strict and sometimes says the wrong things, but he's by no means a bad guy. He, like Kelly, is trying to understand what's the best route to take in terms of this family, and it's totally identifiable. I also like how nobody is 100% right or 100% wrong. Kelly does get in a lot of trouble, and she's properly punished for it, resulting in emotional scenes that, a lot of the time, kind of feel genuine. When Hillary Duff cries, it feels like she's really crying. And when the parents look confused or screwed up, you can tell it means a lot when they did something wrong.
(Scenes focusing on Jessica, the drill sergeant, are shown)
Doug (vo): There are definitely problems, though, and a lot of them center around the Jessica character. Christy Romano is a very talented actress, I just don't think she was the right pick for this part. This is supposed to be someone tough, controlling, and in charge, and she just kind of looks like she's trying to play a role of someone being tough, controlling, and in charge. She just kind of seems snooty and pissed off, not really commanding authority. And I get it. Kelly's supposed to wear her down and get to her humanity, but she just doesn't feel like a genuinely intimidating character that needs to be softened up.
(Scenes focusing on Kelly and Jessica's interest in a boy named Brad (Shawn Ashmore) are shown)
Doug (vo): There's also some strange issues with Kelly and her hitting on the same boy, and even at the end, he doesn't really choose which one he's gonna go with, and...I don't know. It's more uncomfortable than charming. And, yes, by the way, that is Iceman...or Boy. And, yeah, like I said, I never really got why she's going to military school. I don't know if I missed something, but I feel like that's kind of a big decision, and she probably would be made very clear why this is happening, seeing how it's the whole focus of the film.
(Scenes focusing on the film's depiction of the military are shown, mostly focusing on the reigonals competition)
Doug (vo): But again, you could argue that's not really the film's intent. Its intent is trying to show a girl adapting to this new world and, to its credit, making this new world seem different but also impressive. We've seen movies like Stripes where the goofballs go to boot camp, and all sorts of crazy things happen, and, oh, isn't that zany? But I like that this film looks like it legitimately respects the military. There's a lot of impressive marching and techniques, and they look legitimately disciplined and even cool while doing it. All except the final number in the competition. I don't know. They're building this up as like a big deal, and they have to work together in order for this to work, and they need passion and inspiration and...what? They can use ribbons now and play pop songs and...even if that's true, it's edited in such a way that they play scenes twice or speed it up and then slow it down and...that's really cheating, and it looks lame. The scenes before were so impressive. Why did you have to dumb it down like this? I don't know. Maybe they didn't have time to rehearse it well enough so that it looked incredible, but I felt like this was a cheap way out. However, I do big time give credit to the ending. Without giving too much away, not everything wraps up in a neat little bow. I really like it when a kids' film shows not everything is 100% happily ever after. Shit happens, you have to deal with it, and you know what? You still count your blessings and look on the bright side. I think that's a better message than "Always do your best and everything will always turn out your way."
Doug (vo): So, yeah, would I put this on again? No. Would I check it out a first time? Probably not. But for an adult who had to sit through this, I think it gets across the right messages. Sometimes subtle, sometimes too on-the-nose, Cadet Kelly passes with okay colors.
(The final scene, showing Kelly and "Sir" saluting and smiling at each other, is shown)