The term “dumped on Netflix” has arisen in light of the fact that the streaming giant publishes so much content each month, that some of it is inevitably terrible. With the exclusive release of “Stargirl” on Disney Plus, I finally have my first film I can attribute to being dumped on Disney Plus.
If you want a quick recommendation, I’ll save you the trouble. “Stargirl” is a terrible film, even for the low standards of Disney Channel original movies. It’s like “High School Musical” without the energy, good original songs or choreography. It’s also like “Bridge to Terabithia”, but without any of its substance. It’s clearly based on a book that’s worth reading, and I highly recommend you do so. But if you want something for your kids to watch, I highly recommend watching the aforementioned “Bridge to Terabithia,” “High School Musical,” as well as films like “Luck of the Irish,” “The Even Stevens Movie”; even the three “Cheetah Girls” movies that, while not high art, are engaging, fun and good for what they are. “Stargirl” will bore your kids.
“Stargirl” follows the story of a high school trumpet player named Leo (Graham Verchere), who falls in love with the Bohemian Susan “Stargirl” Caraway (Grace VanderWaal), who shakes up the monotony of their high school, where apparently nothing happened before she arrived, illustrated through the school’s empty trophy case which, (nitpick) actually would call attention to their school, as it would imply that they are so terrible that they have never won their own division in any sport ever, and that they somehow have no leading scorers, or other all-time record holders to celebrate.
Sheila O’Malley from RogerEbert.com describes the character of Stargirl far better than anyone else I’ve read on the internet:
“Stargirl is the most ‘manic pixie dream girl’ who ever pixie-dreamgirl-ed. She’s practically the prototype. She’s the Alpha and Omega of the cliche, coined by critic Nathan Rabin in his review of 2005’s ‘Elizabethtown.’ Stargirl dresses eccentrically, she carries around a ukulele, and her pet rat lives in her knapsack. She drifts above the rituals and pressures of high school, communing on a higher and much wiser plane. She exists in order to change the lives of others for the better.”
It’s very clear that the film’s director was trying to frame Stargirl as this whimsical force that sweeps everyone off their feet. The issue is, Stargirl doesn’t have a character; she’s a stereotype. And unfortunately, despite casting a singer-songwriter in the role, all musical numbers in this production fall flat. This is in part because only “Be True to Your School” is the memorable song in this film, but also because the cinematography is flat and cheap-looking, and, knowing what Disney is capable through its Kenny Ortega productions, the choreography in this film feels basic and amateur.
The film also heavily relies upon the Stargirl character being unpredictable and charming, and while her actions come off as unconventional, she does not have any charisma. I’m not sure if this is the fault of director Julia Hart for not getting enough out of the child actors in this production, or if it is genuinely that this cast doesn’t have the talent, but most lines come off as almost monotone and bland, which is a problem for a film trying to be whimsical and heartwarming.
I can’t help but compare Stargirl to AnnaSophia Robb’s character in 2007’s “Bridge to Terabithia”. Both are oddball disruptors who enrich the lives of those they meet, and *spoilers* don’t stay for long in their respective films, becoming stories themselves through the people they leave behind (*Hard Spoilers* Unlike Robb’s character in “Terabithia”, Stargirl does not die, she moves away. *Hard Spoilers end*).
Robb was 14 when “Terabithia” came out, two years VanderWaal’s younger. I know that many might dismiss the wooden acting in this movie because it uses child actors, but child actors are capable of more, even in previous releases by this very same studio, releases that, thanks to Disney Plus, are equally as accessible as “Stargirl.”
I grew up with Disney Channel movies, and I know what they can be. Disney knew what they had on their hands, and knew that it would do little to sell streaming subscriptions. It is my honest opinion that “Stargirl” was dumped on Disney Plus because Disney knew it wouldn’t do well on its traditional broadcast TV channel.
“Stargirl” has garnered positive review from professional critics, holding around a 70 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This is another one that has dumbfounded me. Perhaps they watched a different film than I, or perhaps the standards for films like this have plummeted so far that this film passes for good. Still, “Stargirl” is forgettable, boring, and generic. There’s no reason to watch it other than the fact that it’s new, and I expect that it will fade into obscurity on Disney Plus in the coming years.
“Stargirl” gets a 3/10