Cast: Corbin Bleu, Paula Brancati, Alessandra Cannito, Elle Downs, Mazin Elsadig
Director: Paul Hoen
SUNY Purchase '05
"I don't compromise my values and I don't compromise my work. I won't give in." -Michael Moore
Review By: Rocco Passafuime
The TV movie High School Musical premiered on the Disney Channel in January of last year and defied the wildest of expectations. It not only became one of the highest-rated cable-made movies in years, but a bona fide cult phenomenon that garnered unprecedented mainstream media attention and a mega-selling soundtrack with five of the film's songs making the US top 40.
In an age where most theatrical movies for a young audience are formulaically either animated or more family-oriented, the Disney Channel's TV films have managed to become a rather attractive, yet parent-approved alternative niche for kids and preadolescents. The latest movie, which became an even bigger ratings success on the channel when it premiered, is Jump In!, which is now available on DVD.
Isadore Daniels (Corbin Bleu) is a Brooklyn kid who has gained great popularity around his neighborhood and school as a star boxer at a local gym. His neighbor Mary (Keke Palmer) is part of a double dutch team, The Joy Jumpers, with her friends, but Izzy looks down at the activity as nothing more than child's play.
However, his sister Karin (Kylie Russell) coaxes Izzy into taking her to a double dutch competition in town. Despite losing the competition and one of the Joy Jumpers's members switching over to their rivals, the Dutch Dragons, Mary and the other members soon notice Izzy's talent for jumping and back flips and talk him into joining the team.
The would-be boxer is reluctant to come aboard, as he fears not only his reputation suffering, but the disapproval of his father Kenneth (David Reivers), a former aspiring boxer who now dedicates his life to training Izzy. So as a compromise, he agrees to be a temporary substitute while Mary and the Joy Jumpers agree to train Izzy in secret while he's not practicing his boxing.
Izzy continues to hit his stride in boxing and he ends up not only developing a more genuine fondness for double dutch, but for Mary as well. He soon agrees to become the permanent member of the team, newly christened as the Hot Chili Steppers, but Izzy quickly finds his reputation with his peers and his relationship with his father in jeopardy when a school bully and scornful boxing rival (Patrick Johnson Jr.) leaks out his secret.
It's important to realize off the bat that any comparison to the phenomenal High School Musical is minimal at best. While the film's plot has vague similarities to the aforementioned hit, the plot's more urban setting and weaving pastimes like boxing and double dutch is an admittedly novel concept for a TV film.
Corbin Bleu, who previously played best friend Chad Danforth in High School Musical, proves himself to be one of the better of Disney's factory-ready teen performers. His presence in this TV outing is charismatic enough and mines great potential for a future beyond the small world
While it greatly lacks the appealing cast of High School Musical, Jump In is predominantly more down-to-earth and subtle and seems to strive much higher than Disney Channel features of the past. While the High School Musical-derived plot is creatively refined here, the concept doesn't fully translate into a compelling story with a largely awkward script.
Also, the narration in Jump In! is tacked-on and highly distracting. And the typical signature annoying film score and Disney teen pop soundtrack is thankfully more minimal this time around, but it's particularly out of place here with the film's urban setting.
The DVD's picture quality is in the 1:33:1 full-screen aspect ratio of the original TV broadcast, with the sound quality in Dolby Digital Surround 5.1. The "Freestyle Edition"Â of this DVD is also packed with plenty of special features.
The special features are broken into two different sections. The first one "Backstage Disney"Â contains two features.
The first one is a behind-the-scenes featurette called Inside The Ropes: The Making Of Jump In!. It features highly energetic footage of the movie's filming, as well as great interviews with the cast and crew.
Rounding out the Backstage Disney features is a called Learning The Moves. It's a great tutorial featurette in which Corbin Bleu teaches viewers how to do double dutch, which is quite exciting for anyone wanting to learn more.
The Music And More section contains two music videos from the film's soundtrack, Keke Palmer's "Jumpin'"Â and Disney ensemble teen group T-Squad's "Vertical"Â. The songs are surprisingly a slight notch up from the standard lyrically bland and musically plastic Disney teen pop fare. As a result, they and the videos for them manage to be decent enough and are worthy additions.
While Jump In won't wow viewers the same way High School Musical did with its strong and memorable cast , Disney Channel's newest TV movie success ups the latter in its more grounded approach, if not so much its execution. It definitely signals, however, that Disney's starting to take its channel's enormous TV movie success seriously and hopefully, it's a sign of greater things to come from the world of Disney Channel.
Movie Grade: B-
DVD Features Grade: B
Overall Grade: B