Disney Channel learned the devotion and purchasing power of the tween viewer with the overwhelming success of “High School Musical.” Perhaps with its latest original pic, the Mouse will learn not to take those same viewers for granted. “Read It and Weep,” based on the popular book, “How My Private, Personal Journal Became a Bestseller,” is fun, frivolous and totally forgettable.
There is no formula for success, although sometimes it appears as if the network thinks that clean-cut and cute, paired with the right pop song, is all it takes to draw viewers. As a summer distraction, “Read It and Weep” is fine. The cast is adorable, the sets are pristine and the music is video-ready perfect. But fans of the book, which skewers the horrible hierarchy of high school, will notice that a good bit of the original spirit has been edited out in favor of the usual trappings.
Real-life sisters and Disney movie vets Kay and Danielle Panabaker star as Jamie, a high school freshman with absolutely no street cred and her saucier alter-ego Isabella. Jamie writes and doodles in her journal, fantasizing about a world where she can take on the popular cliques. Through her alter ego Isabella, or Is, Jamie gets to say everything she’s always wanted to. Is walks the halls of school with confidence. She zaps her enemies into perpetual detention. She wins the heart of the most popular boy in school.
When Jamie inadvertently turns in her journal instead of the class assignment, her English teacher sees publishing gold. Jamie becomes a media sensation overnight. And as her popularity blossoms, Is’ personality takes hold of Jamie, leaving her friends and family scrambling in the wake of her celebrity.
Writers Patrick Jay Clifton and Beth Rigazio have created an interesting dilemma for tweens. Often told to follow their conscience, the movie begs the question, “What if the voice in your head is giving you bad advice?”
Jamie enjoys the attention and popularity, but it’s not really her. The ultimate moral is to stay true to oneself, but that message feels diluted here, considering the subtext; the little details that make the book so relatable are missing in the movie version. Gone is the chubby best friend; in are cookie-cutter cuties. Gone is the irritating younger sister; in is the older brother who can rock it at the big dance.
Director Paul Hoen keeps things moving at breakneck speed, compromising the impact of Jamie’s rise and fall and redemptive lesson. It just goes to show that instant gratification may not be that gratifying.
Read It and Weep