Hilary Duff continues to have her image splashed across magazine covers across the country, and yet her films continue to get diminishing results at the box office, with the recent "Perfect Man" starting to disappear from theaters shortly after it opened. The films (see "Raise Your Voice") often seem like long-form trailers for Duff's latest musical efforts, as well.
"Cadet Kelly", an early Duff effort for the Disney channel, isn't bad, but there's some rather questionable elements. Kelly (Duff) is a student at an exclusive Manhattan school where she's free to express herself and be a teen fashion queen. Her parents are divorced, but she still sees both. Her mother, however, has decided to start new with General Joe Maxwell (Gary Cole). While Kelly thinks the marriage will be fine, she gets a rude awakening when her mother drops the fact that Kelly actually now has to go to Military School, where General Maxwell is the head. The scene is oddly acted, and makes it seem as if the mother is dumping her child and caring more about her new husband.
Once there, she gets stuck under the thumb of Cadet Captain Stone (Christy Carlson Romano). Kelly tries to go up against authority at any chance she gets while at the school, but when she spots the drill team practicing, she finally spots something she thinks that she might enjoy at the school. So, no surprise, the team finally starts winning at meets.
Duff's sunny, sweet personality works well for light comedy like "Lizzy McGuire". However, Duff flounders when it comes to emotional moments, which there are a few of here. She'd be best in the future being a smaller part of a larger ensemble. Carlson-Romano and Cole provide fine supporting efforts. Overall, "Cadet Kelly" isn't bad as some Disney TV fare with some fun moments, but it's rather cliched and forgettable.
VIDEO: "Cadet Kelly" is presented by Disney in 1.33:1 full-frame, the show's original aspect ratio. The picture quality is perfectly average, with satisfactory sharpness and detail, as well as no major concerns, aside from some light shimmer. Colors are natural and bright, with nice saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: "Cadet Kelly" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 by Disney. There isn't much in the way of surround use, but music, ambience and other sounds are nicely spread out across the front speakers. Overall, not bad, considering the movie was not originally presented in 5.1.
EXTRAS: Commentary by actresses Christy Carlson-Romano and Aimee Garcia is offered on selected scenes and there's also a "Learning the Drills" featurette, interactive game and preview trailers.
Final Thoughts: "Cadet Kelly" offers some fun moments, but Duff's performance is just adequate and the movie is mostly predictable fluff (and, by the looks of it, I'm guessing no military advisor was involved.) Disney's DVD edition offers fine audio/video quality, with a decent helping of supplements. Duff fans may want to seek a purchase, especially at the low retail price.