My Date with The President’s Daughter (A Review)
I blame High School Musical for single-handedly bringing the once-glorious Disney Channel spiraling into awful tween-actors, cheesy sitcoms, and…geh…Miley Cyrus. It was really the first formulaic mind-numbingly awful film/show that basically had the eternal message of ‘Life can’t go wrong when you’re in high school! High school equals time of your life and don’t you forget it!’
Look at any DCM from the past five years and tell me all you see are obnoxious twentysomethings playing teensomethings having good old Christian fun ALL THE DAMN TIME! Apparently nowadays you can’t cram in any depth without losing the entirety of the bubblicious atmosphere Disney is famous for. That ruined a lot, and that’s why I am convinced it is the brainchild of Beelzebub.
That and the fact that I narrowly made it past the target demographic age for HSM when it came out. Luckiest break since I missed out on Zoey 101.
Believe it or not, in the late 1990s, Disney found a small, microscopic little niche where some depth CAN be added to the smiling WASP childrens’ silly antics and still earn a DC Seal of Approval. This was the era where such films as Smart House, Luck of the Irish, and, one of my favorites, My Date With the President’s Daughter, were born.
Let’s make an example of My Date, for instance.
The plot is highly simplistic, but then again, Disney’s gotten away with that for decades. Hallie Richmond is the titular daughter, a painfully-naïve sheltered girl (natural considering her circumstances) who just wants to go on a date. Her father seems to be loosely-based on George Bush Sr, and therefore, is highly conservative. Finally, he lets her go on a date with Duncan, a sweet but awkward dork she met while sneaking away from a stop on her father’s re-election campaign. Duncan steals his father’s BMW, sneaks away from the Secret Service with her, and the hijinks ensue, which include-but-are-not-limited-to: getting into a brawl at a club, putting on a magic show at a biker bar, showing up on TV, having the BMW stolen, running from Secret Service, having a romantic dance on a rooftop overlooking the city, and rescuing Hallie from some college biker douche who only pops up in the second act of the movie.
For it’s clichés and seizure-inducing late-90s artifacts (neon-light clubs, young guys thinking that dressing in 80lbs of leather is hot, fuzzy pink butterfly jewelry, etc.), the film has a lot that post-2005 Disney Channel doesn’t.
For one, the teen actors can act. Will Freidle as Duncan (Boys Meets World, anyone? *yes please!*) is just enough dork to be believable and lovably awkward, but has just enough hero/macho in him to make me feel tingly in certain places. Elisabeth Harnois plays Hallie, and gets the character just right enough so that I’m interested, but not annoyed with her naivety. Hallie is actually a typical teenage girl with as much intelligence as charisma, and while she isn’t a source for much of the humor, she’s still likeable.
Nowadays, you’d either get a gorgeous ‘insecure nerd’ like Vanessa Hudgens (who, for the record, I would gladly run over in my Park Avenue for free if the opportunity arose) or some stupid naïve girl who’s played solely for laughs like Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana.
The secondary characters are great too. I’m especially fond of Dabney Coleman’s President Richmond who can be just as adorable as he is intimidating.
Secondly, the teen characters aren’t fucking morons who are high on high school life. Duncan and Hallie both have their shallow hang-ups, but both are clearly aware of the world outside their minds. One scene that I consider to be the pivotal scene is where they meet a protest against Hallie’s father on the street, and Hallie stands up for her father, expressing that being the President doesn’t just mean spending taxpayer’s money. It’s more than smiling to the cameras all the time like a celebrity.
Political awareness in a sixteen year old? Madness! Blasphemy, I say!
Thirdly, while the bulk of the movie does rely heavily on how much trouble can befall the poor, bumbling Duncan on his first date, it doesn’t depend on sight gags, prat falls, and childish jokes. The movie recognizes it’s audience as teenagers as opposed to eight-year-olds. And this makes sense, seeing as the main characters ARE, in fact, supposed to be teenagers.
In HSM, the main characters are the same age, but the insipid antics of the HSM crowd lead me to think Disney is assuming that teenagers are drooling idiots as opposed to young adults. They must, unless the key demographic is specifically stated to be ages 2-10 (in which case, why aren’t the main characters FUCKING EIGHT YEAR OLDS!?!?)
*Taking a deep breath* Okay, I’m back.
I’ll admit that the media is changing, attempting to fit the needs and wants of the youngest generation. But apparently Disney Channel takes that to mean ‘dumb down.’ My Date is a cute, intelligent, yet entirely innocent movie. It’s no Beauty and the Beast for sure, but it’s not supposed to be. There’s a fine line between innocence and idiocy that Disney has long since fallen out of touch with.
The Disney Renaissance is over, and there’s really no way of it coming back. *Le woeful sigh*