Like attending a talent show or sitting through a beauty pageant without having your own kid to root for, Standing Ovation comes off like a pre-teen parade financed by friends, family and James Brolin, and begging to be graded on a curve for the sheer effort of its song-and-dance stylings. The sad truth is that Standing Ovation deserves the opposite treatment of its title -- it's all broad mugging and braces, generic songs and goofy slapstick sequences that leave one wistful for the cable-level adequacy of Disney Channel's High School Musical films.
The Ovations (Kayla Jackson, Alexis Biesiada, Pilar Martin, Kayla Raparelli and Na'jee Wilson) constantly find themselves sabotaged by the Wiggies (London Clark, Erika Corvette, Ashley Cutrona, Jeana Zettler and Devon Jordan) in local singing competitions. Now, they're facing off in a music video competition that'll earn the winning team a million dollars and a nationwide television audience. Will the scrappy Ovations face more setbacks from the likes of the well-off Wiggies, or will the Ovations' new manager (Joei DeCarlo) see them to stardom while shaking down snitches for information about the man who left her late father penniless?
You read that right. It'd be one thing if director Stewart Raffill (whose last effort, Sirens of the Caribbean, co-starred producer Brolin among other members of the cast) stuck to the film's advertised "20 original songs and 14 original dance numbers," unremarkable though they may be. Instead, DeCarlo gets to run around, doing her worst DeNiro, tipping our heroine off about horse races (leading to a mixed message about how gambling is wrong, unless you win at it), and inexplicably toting scorpions, snakes and even electric eels around in her purse with which to threaten grown men into squealing.
She's not even the worst part of the film; that'd be Alanna Palombo as Alanna Wannabe ("And I'm gonna be!"), a relentlessly shrill would-be starlet that neither quintet wants around. If her bio on the film's official site is to be believed, Raffill wrote the part just for her, a gesture emblematic of everything that's wrong with the movie. Why, in the final competition, are six semi-finalists whittled down to a group of four instead of the conventional three? Probably because somebody promised to include another act and didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. (That logic might also explain why I counted four credited choreographers, although only two appear on IMDb.) And let's not forget the gay, Italian, Irish and "Joisey" stereotypes that run rampant from start to finish.
I'm sure this was a production driven by plenty of local can-do spirit (it's mostly set in Atlantic City), but the manic mood can't disguise the amateurish credentials of all involved, especially in the downtime between tunes. Of course, it'll all be much easier to forgive if a lone performance stood out as truly winning or just merely restrained, or if a single song managed to be catchy enough to last for the length of time it would take me to walk from the theater to the parking lot. Alas, there wasn't even one moment that drew the line between can-do and should-do, just recurring mantras about how everyone's gonna be a superstar and numerous occasions where money does in fact buy happiness (that, and a 600-screen opening).
Standing Ovation espouses all the worst notions of modern celebrity and disguises them beneath lackluster musical segments and thoroughly trying performances. Who knows, some of these young girls might yet display genuine talent and rise to fame as they clearly hope to. Maybe next time, they won't put their shot at the spotlight in the hands of the man who directed Mac and Me.