Despite its absurdly optimistic title, “Standing Ovation” deserves a resounding chorus of boos, and maybe a few well-aimed tomatoes. Writer-director Stewart Raffill may be a seasoned pro, with credits (“Adventures of the Wilderness Family,” “Across the Great Divide”) that date back to the ’70s heyday of four-walled, family-friendly outdoor dramas, but his latest effort has the off-putting air of too-eager amateurishness. At once annoyingly hyper and underwhelmingly dull, this tween-skewing musical comedy isn’t likely to draw much of its target aud away from Disney Channel reruns during its limited theatrical release.
The cliche-encrusted plot focuses on the heated competition between two young song-and-dance ensembles based in Atlantic City: The “mean girls,” snooty high-schoolers dubbed the Wiggies by their rich wig-designer father/manager (overplayed by music supervisor Sal Dupree); and the “nice girls,” spunky 12-year-olds known collectively as the 5 Ovations, fronted by perpetually peppy Brittany (Kayla Jackson).
With a little assistance from a stereotypical Italian tough gal (Joei DeCarlo) and almost no help at all from her gambling-addict grandfather (P. Brendan Mulvey), Brittany leads her sister Ovations to the final round of a musicvideo competition in Manhattan. They proceed apace despite dirty tricks by the Wiggies, reckless wagering by Brittany’s grandpa and relentless intrusions by the aptly named Alanna Wannabe (Alanna Palombo), a tenaciously ambitious grade-schooler determined to be a star by fair means or foul.
Every few minutes, the wispy narrative brakes to a halt to allow for a frenetic musical montage choreographed to an instantly forgettable bubble-gum ditty. There’s nothing original or entertaining about any of these musicvid-style interludes — indeed, a few featuring sexy vamping by young girls are borderline creepy — but at least they offer respite from the oppressive silliness of the scenes that connect them.
The performances range from barely adequate to nerve-grating — Palombo is the worst offender — and the tech values suggest a penny-pinching budget.