But when they don't work? Well, that's when we notice the unoriginality, the triteness, the stale funk wafting from the screen. Consider "Jump In!" (The exclamation point is the title's, not mine.) The latest DCOM hit is a puddle of boring clichés and too-familiar situations; it's no surprise that the three credited screenwriters are all sitcom veterans used to recycled ideas. While the cast is sparkling - the leads include charismatic Disney regular Corbin Bleu and Keke Palmer, who was terrific in last year's "Akeelah and the Bee" - there's not a single thing for them to do that's not worn out beyond use. And so "Jump In!" just sits there like a lump.
Which is surprising, considering the premise seems to offer plenty of liveliness throughout. Bleu plays Izzy, a teenage boxer who catches a love for double-dutch jump rope after reluctantly joining his friend's jump team. Real-life jump ropers appear during the movie's multiple competition scenes, and the sport is great fun to watch. The Disney-fied addition of complicated dance moves to the routine isn't at all as silly as it sounds, instead giving the film plenty of likable energy.
It's what's in between those moments that brings the film to a screeching halt. Izzy's boxer dad (David Reivers, Bleu's real-life father) wants Izzy to win the Golden Glove, thus continuing a family tradition of ace prize fighters. He doesn't want Izzy messing with all that jump rope silliness, and, of course, Izzy doesn't want all the guys at school to find out he's involved in something so "girly."
Ten points to anyone who can guess what happens next. Yup: Izzy's secret practices are discovered by the school bully; Izzy's friendship with his best pal (Palmer) goes on the rocks when Izzy decides to quit the team so as not to seem like a sissy; Izzy realizes his errors, takes pride in what he really loves, and returns just in time for the Big Championship Finale; and wouldn't ya know it, Izzy's father sneaks in halfway through as he's slowly filled with pride for his boy.
It's not that the script reuses every well-worn plot point to ever appear in a teen sports flick. It's that it does it so badly. The script slops through the clichés with a disappointing amount of laziness, while director/Disney Channel vet Paul Hoen and his cast all look tired with the material. There's no energy to the proceedings.
There are a few decent messages featured within - namely, that a boy can do "girl" things and (as illustrated by a girl who loves to box) that a girl can do "boy" things. (Not surprisingly, Disney avoids anything beyond this, effectively tiptoeing around any possible sexual orientation commentary.) It's a nice thing to teach kids, that they should not be ashamed to do the things they love, but to get to this point, we have to sit through what winds up being a sloppy retread of "The Cutting Edge" (and the like) filtered through "Bring It On" (and the like). Bleu and Palmer deserve better, and so do the kids watching at home.
It should be noted that the DVD received for review was an advance screener copy and not the final retail version. That said, the screener seems to be identical to what will appear on store shelves.
Video & Audio
The movie is only a few months old, so the solid transfer is as expected. There's the usual TV movie look to the thing, but nothing that hurts the final picture. Presented in a 1.33:1 format as originally broadcast. (As usual for Disney, the film was shot in a widescreen format, then framed for standard TVs. 1.33:1 is the intended aspect ratio; the widescreen version was filmed for future HD broadcast use.)
The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack makes good use of the film's music-packed soundtrack. Optional English subtitles are provided.
In "Learning the Moves" (5:20), Bleu shows you the ropes (no pun intended) of jumping, from basics to advanced moves. The menu allows you to play them all at once or directly select the move you wish to learn. Presented in non-anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen.
"Inside the Ropes: The Making of Jump In!" (6:38) is the same sort of light EPK behind-the-scenes fluff that you've seen on dozens of other DCOM DVDs, or as a sales pitch in between programs on the Disney Channel.
Two music videos are included: Keke Palmer's agreeable "Jumpin'" (3:03) and T-Squad's annoying "Vertical" (2:59).
The disc rounds out with the usual assortment of Disney previews, which also play as the disc loads.
All extras are presented in full screen format except where noted.
The Disney Channel's built-in fan base has already ignored everything in this review and will probably be happy with the slight extras, just to have the movie in their collections. Those who didn't go nuts for the thing when it debuted in January, however, will do best just to Rent It once (or, better still, just catch a rerun on the Disney Channel), then forget all about it.