Invisible Sister Disney Channel Original Movie Review
A real Halloween treat, isn't it? I say this sincerely, not sarcastically. - Mike
You're supposed to put an actual movie quote in there! - Unknown again
Um..........awesome city? - Mike again
What is it? single-cam DCOM
Where did it air? Well it's a DCOM so I'm guessing, uh, Disney Channel?
Who stars in it? Rowan Blanchard, i.e. the "real" main star of Girl Meets World, and Paris Berelc, i.e. the obligatory hot chick from Mighty Med. Also her name is pronounced "Burr-ells" apparently. Also Karan Brar and other people. Rachel Crow who I'm mentioning mainly because I fondly remember her Nick stuff and we're from the same home town, yay!
Why are we reviewing it? After actually seeing it, you got me, though Mike likes it for what it's worth.
Before I just end up typing the whole damn entire review in italics I better just forget being clever and go straight to it. Invisible Sister is the most disappointing thing I've seen on the network this year, barely edging out Teen Beach 2. On my Twitter timeline everybody's raving about it, or at the very least saying it's somewhere between ok and good. I hope I can see the same movie they saw one of these days. Either that or I really am the only sane person left. On the same Twitter feed there's a bunch of retweets on how Canadian viewers were cheated out because the cable feed cut out nation-wide.
They are the fucking lucky ones, I tell you.
First of all, the opening and closing narrations are too close to Riley's stupid monologues from Meets Gravity, which is the second worst episode of Season 2 next to Tell Tale Tot. It turned out that was a pretty scarily accurate omen. It runs into the exact same problems - it's a bunch of expository dialogue of the character basically informing the audience how we're supposed to feel about her delivered in a very stilted, wooden manner that really shouldn't be the first thing the audience is introduced to in your movie. I'll get more into that a little later, and I'm already imaging the flak I'm going to get for what I'm going to say.
Rowan isn't going to be winning MVP on this one (again more on that in a bit) but Rowan's Cleo is in the running with Jessie Prescott for tonight's Raging Fucking Bitch Award. It was so distracting it pretty much sank the whole damn movie as far as I'm concerned. I know people were hoping for a change from Riley, the perpetually happy-go-lucky naive schoolgirl who can witness an active nuclear missile launch and lead to the conclusion yay! The Sun is going to be on the Earth now! Cleo certainly was that change of direction but...it just didn't work.There's so many problems I don't even know where to begin. How about just the fact that the character was completely unlikable for most of the first 30 minutes of the movie. She spends way too much time being critical of other people with complete lack of irony as she walks around as a personification of goth and emo tropes that became obsolete right around the time Rowan would've been learning to act. As much as Cleo bitches about the walking stereotypes that surround her, she's nothing more but another cynical teen burn-out who has managed to find smugness in being a loner. This is a Monstober DCOM which means I was expecting a lot of fun; this is not starting out as fun. This is tiresome
What exactly does the character of Cleo bring to the table? Let's see...she's smart so that we have an excuse for her to make the movie live up to its title. She's both smug and lazy to the point where she needs to be artificially pushed to come up with a creative direction for her science project (again, leading up to the movie to live up to its title). She's snarky and sassy so she fills that mandatory Disney Channel quota. Ummm, that's all I remember.
Her sister, Paris Berelc (pronounced without that last hanging-c in there, if you'r wondering)'s Molly is...there. As Cleo herself points out she's a walking teen party girl stereotype (the relatively clean, tame version Disney Channel permits) and well she's pretty devoid of character. Do not believe anybody else who tells you otherwise. No, I mean it. I very honestly have no idea what kind of movie the people in my Twitter timeline saw. I'm not fucking kidding.
Speaking of my Twitter timeline, someone said that Cleo is awesome because she "breaks stereotypes of women in STEM fields." No, no, no. First of all if you want that DCOM you want How to Build a Better Boy which is much better than this in all respects. In fact Disney Channel seems to be on a real STEM kick because every DCOM of 2015 except for Bad Hair Day incorporates STEM themes including Teen Beach 2 and Descendants. That doesn't mean it's automatically handled well. Unlike How to Build a Better Boy there really isn't anything here to distinguish Cleo as a true role model for girls who want to aspire to STEM beyond hurr durr plot device.
And that's the thing about trying to inspire girls into STEM fields. You're not going to do that with a Disney Channel Original Movie. In fact by that time it's kind of too late, that ship's already sailed and sunk on its way back to Arendelle. First of all, as someone actually involved in the educational field I find it a little disingenuous to try to push anybody towards one specific field or another that he or she may just flat out not be interested in. When I was a student people tried to push me into math, and guess what, I fucking hated it. People pushed me anyway, I got mediocre to adequate grades, managed to push through high school and even into mathematics-science college courses. Guess what, I still fucking hated math. Yes I appreciate the higher-level math skills that I will probably never, ever use in the future....um, wait, actually I don't seeing as how they're kind of useless to me now. But moreover and more importantly the time to really push those kinds of interests is when they're young, already by the first through second grades, with interesting, engaging and skills level-appropriate teaching and activities. And don't just push math and science, or literature, or the arts over the other - children at that age need complete and total exposure and immersion into everything before their brains "hardwire" into certain preferences by the 5th grade and, for example, pushing them into math or language arts when they hate math or language arts will just be a futile effort worth little better than filling a state education requirement (which is still important, but it's not the type of thing that's going to successfully push for more women in the STEM fields). If you want more women in the STEM fields, you need to make sure girls get good, quality, skills level-appropriate STEM-field instruction no later than the 3rd grade. And good quality skills level-appropriate exposure to reading and literature, and art, and music, and etc. That's why it's so important to have a well-rounded education in primary school, and why budget cuts and pairing everything down to the "bare necessities" of math, science and reading is so dangerous and counter-productive to those very core fields. It's also why I kind of hate the Nickelodeon Kids! presentation on women in the STEM field a few months...maybe a year?...back because it basically totally bought into that sort of thing, exactly what the status quo is just with a little window dressing to make it seems more progressive than it actually is.
Then there's the ridiculous part of I guess Rowan and Paris look and sound enough like each other that Rowan actually passes herself off as Paris with just a mask? Ok, that part was especially bizarre and it was a central plot device to the entire movie. I'm sorry but it just doesn't work. It just comes off as completely ridiculous that you're asking the audience to buy off on this as a key part of successfully pulling off the movie's central plot premise.
There was one good scene that I was sure was setting the movie up to fall flat on its face where Cleo has to attend a prep rally circle on Molly's behalf. Cleo enters into a darkened gym with all the fellow, uh, rally preppers led by some what's her face played by Nickelodeon veteran actress Rachel Crow (I miss her on Figure it Out! so bad) who are all in costumes as, you see, it happens to be Halloween. They begin with a trust circle where everybody has to spill the beans on their personal feelings and this is where it could get either so cheesy to just be a turn-off, be a mouthpiece for Cleo's I hate everybody because I'm smug speeches, or most likely both and I was prepared to just let the movie hum in the background during Candy Crush. Instead Rowan pulls through with a pretty impassioned speech about what it feels like to be invisible (oh, that's another thing, Cleo is socially invisible which, I'm sorry, the way it's done in this movie is a bit of a ham-fisted analogous connection to the main plot gimmick) that feels like a genuine character moment genuinely touching on and affecting other characters. In all fairness, and at the risk of personal embarrassment (eh, I've done enough of that on this blog as it is, piling on isn't going to change anything) I actually did feel tears well up a little bit. And then we just got...awful, bland, the rest of the movie.
As it happens to be Molly's a major player on her Lacrosse team, where we get a speech about how much Molly actually hates Lacrosse (to the point where she has to take what amounts to over-the-counter medication to calm her anxiety) but loves being on the team. Um, ok. There are other sports you know. Being on a team and feeling like an integral part of a larger whole that's bigger than yourself is important, granted, but if you're getting so nervous and stressed out about it that you're getting physical discomfort over it you might want to see a school counselor. I'm only harping on this because telling girls how not to be invisible and how to function as a team is a major part of this movie's theme so, I don't know, it might be a nice thing to add on to. Anyway, Molly has Cleo sub for her in her Lacrosse team (again, we're supposed to buy off on the fact that they can almost pass as twins) and as it turns out Cleo sucks at it. So Molly rushes onto the field in her invisible form and tackles girls on the other team as if this was the fucking NFL. I mean, obviously professional stuntwomen are doing cartwheels mid-air. Yes, this is another problem I have with the movie that I'm going to indiscriminately bitch about. Really, I don't get the glorification of kid-on-kid violence lately that started way before even Hunger Games. This is a movie that's supposed to be celebrating being different and using that difference to not be invisible, to work as a team, and other politically correct high school literally Disney Channel tropes, so it's a little bit disturbing to have girls just tackle other girls out of the way (illegally, in a manner that could likely cause bodily injury) as a part of this girl power celebration - especially (and this is no fault of the movie itself) since on the day of the movie's premiere there were not one but two school shootings that day. Quite frankly it does kind of give a little bit of a Cleo-as-specially ordained flavor to it, which is an impression I get of Riley Matthews on Girl Meets World, and I'm wondering if it's something inherent to Rowan on the network for some reason.
Ok, to the most controversial thing of all that people will hang me for - Rowan was flat out a horrible actress in this. Paris and Karan acted circles around her. For the first 20 or so minutes of the movie everything she did was completely flat. Her delivery of her lines, including the opening narration, and her entire acting and body language was extremely stilted and wooden. Her voice had a weird inflection (or lack thereof) that made me question if it was a result of actively not even wanting to be in the movie (I can't say I'd blame her). It was like watching someone be in a major production for the first time. Girl Meets Rah-Rah right after this was a breath of fresh air and I don't know if it was extremely atrocious directing or if Rowan is just destine to be typecast into the Riley role forever and she just can't pull off cynical goth with more range than a cardboard box.
So yeah, needless to say I simply did not like this one. I can barely tell you how it ends (it involves some of Molly's OTC meds somehow magically going re-visible) because at that point I had long fucking given up and went back to Candy Crush. I really don't think I'm going to bother to revisit it.
Episode MVP: Well I legitimately can't claim me for sitting through this considering how I pretty much bailed with 15-20 minutes to go. I'm giving it to Karan Brar because I think he really was the best actor in this. Paris was...acting...and Rowan was just stuck doing her Keanu Reeves Meme impression combined with passive-aggressive raging bitch.
Episode Grade: D+. That's the highest grade I can give to something I decided I can't even finish through. It's easily the worst Monstober DCOM I've ever seen in my life - which, granted, is a pretty high bar, but still this is below average even for a normal DCOM. This is nowhere near Girl vs. Monster or Twitches, let alone Halloweentown. I think I'd honestly rather sit through Frenemies. At least that one had a fun musical number in it. It outright boggles my mind why so many people on Twitter love this. I don't see it. I don't think I ever can see what they see. Am I the only sane person on Earth? Have I pretty much just become Will Forte now?
I really hope Liar, Liar Vampire completely buries this, even though I already know it won't.
I'll leave it to you Mike, if you've bothered to watch this turd bucket at all.
For the sake of time and common sense, I'll just leave my thoughts here. And Unknown, I hate to break it to you, but you really are the last man on Earth.
This was one of the first DCOMs in a very long time that I actually sat down to watch. And not just watch on my DVR days later, I mean live. It's a rarity these days that I actually get to watch live television. But this movie is simply magical. It put a little twinkle in my belly and an extra spring in my step. It showed me what the world can do when you believe hard enough and everything will come true. Invisible Sister was cosmic, y'all. Cosmic.
But no, I'm just kidding. Invisible Sister is nowhere my favorite DCOM and as of right now, it probably never will be. But last night, I watched it and realized that......it was good. It was genuinely entertaining. Was it funny? Eh, a few decent jokes. Did we have enjoyable characters? I shall say so. Did Rowan Blanchard finally show the world that one day, Riley Matthews will die but her acting will live on forever because she can take on different roles? Indeed.
Unknown, you might crucify me for this, but I was feeling this movie from start to finish. Rowan really shined in her role as Cleo. She could have been a little more developed in terms of her science skills because the majority of her character is a smug little emo brat, but she did well with everything she was given. You saw her slip not once in this movie. She handled emotional moments very well, she played off of her co-stars with ease and she fit into the role of Cleo like a glove. I wasn't thinking about Riley or how she could have stumbled over some of her lines, because what I was thinking about was a young actress who has a bright future ahead of her and can only get better at this point.
I do have two concerns, one of which could have been a very serious problem. My first gripe is that it feels like the role of Cleo was written for someone older. I know Molly was supposed to be older than Cleo, but a one-year difference is not that much of a problem. Everything about Cleo's personality and mannerisms feel like they belong to someone else, and Rowan is not an actress so gifted she can pull off the age difference like that. Another problem is something that Unknown already pointed out, and I will bring back up: Molly and Cleo look nothing alike. Yes, their height is almost identical, but not only do they have different hair colors and body types, they sound nothing alike. Rowan has a naturally nasal inflection that is extremely hard to miss. For crying out loud, Marlee Matlin would be able to figure out that Cleo is posing as Molly. Suspension of disbelief is a very important part of storytelling. About 95% of the world's stories have some fundamental problems that you have to live with in order to enjoy them. Invisible Sister has one big fundamental problem, and your enjoyment of the movie is contingent upon whether or not you can believe that Cleo can pull off Molly. It is what it is, and it did not stop me from enjoying myself.
The lesson that this movie teaches is really something to chew on. What is invisible can always be visible, and what is visible can always be invisible in the blink of an eye. Cleo was invisible in personality, and her resentment of Molly's popularity and ability to inspire people caused her to become cold and push her sister away. Cleo wanted nothing more than to have Molly's life, and because she lacked the personality for it, she became rude, skeptical, and a loner. Her feelings towards her crush is a perfect piece of evidence for this. She likes the guy and we know it, but she is afraid of being hurt because guys like that are never into girls like her. Molly has everything she could ever want, but it is never enough. She has to work twice as hard to get the academic success Cleo can get in no time at all, and she is just barely able to make the grade. Molly wants to understand Cleo, but she is uninterested in reciprocating. Cleo wants to be seen, but she has to get over herself to do it. Both of these characters know they have their flaws and at the end of the day, you believe they will take steps to rise above them. When Cleo has her big emotional moment, it feels earned. It feels like there was actual build-up to the moment and it paid off. Her being all standoffish and "screw the world, screw my moms, screw my girl" is just her way of coping with something she wishes she could be. Molly is nowhere near as confident as people might think and wishes she could have something solid to fall back on like Cleo does.
Sometimes, we should all accept the invitation to fro-yo. It will be totally awesome city. GO FIGHTING LIONS!!!!! Okay, I completely missed the context of that, but whatever.
Movie Grade: B+
MVP: Rowan Blanchard stole the show. Trust me, it is extremely jarring to watch this movie and then check out the new Girl Meets World episode. That one sucked, by the way. I really hope the show is just spinning its wheels until next week, where they NEED. TO RAISE. THE STAKES. Okay, that should be a separate post. Yes, Blanchard was gold in this movie and you can come at me for it. I can't knock her performance because I got invested in Cleo's story. Karan Brar is definitely the runner-up, and his natural speaking voice is way better than his current Ravi voice. I don't know why Jessie couldn't just let him drop the accent once his voice started to drop. It sounded awkward then and it sounds awkward now. Still though, Brar was entertaining as George. Paris Berelc was decent enough, especially during her big emotional moment. Plus, she is smoking, but you already know that. Between her, Kelli Berglund, and Sofia Carson, Disney really has some stunning ladies on its roster.
So in the end, Invisible Sister was a great movie. It will never be as iconic as Halloweentown, but does it really have to be? It was a great 90 minutes and a sign that Disney Channel can still pull off original movies. Then you have Nickelodeon, with a guy pretending to be a vampire and everyone believing him. Whoopee.
Crucify you? Dude, believe it or not I'm actually pretty stoked that you disagree with me so much on this one! Those are the best reviews, when two guys duke it out for the sake of the reading audience to prove his opinionated and intellectual superiority. Are you not entertained?!?!?! Seriously though, it's me who's getting crucified for this, from everyone who's responded in the comments so far to everyone on my Twitter timeline who's been reading my tweets and responses of how I think this movie sucked and how Rowan sucked.
I'm going to go ahead and say right here though, that you did make me rethink the whole movie. I was listening to what the movie had to say about (in)visibility on the metaphorical level applies to both Molly and Cleo, but I was dismissive of it, perhaps unfairly. The shy wallflower or the outspoken but still ignored rebel who has to work twice as hard to rise to the cream of popularity, or academics, or focuses all of her energy into academics or social causes because even trying at popularity is hopeless is probably the most common trope in these DCOMs. Mary Mouser's character in Frenemies was that. Bridgit Mendler's and Naomi Scott's and Hayley Kiyoko's characters in Lemonade Mouth were that (an excellent DCOM BTW). Selena Gomes' character in Princess Protection Program was that. Debby Ryan's whole damn second DCOM Radio Rebel was this. Olivia Holt's character in Girl vs. Monster was this, to show that it's in holiday DCOMs too. In fact come to think of it Invisible Sister is just Radio Rebel combined with Girl vs. Monster. Probably most famously Vanessa Hudgen's Gabriella from High School Musical at least had shades of it. I'm not trying to dismiss the movie as being a ripoff of previous DCOMs at all, I'm just trying to explain that, after seeing it a million times, it becomes almost second-nature to just dismiss things and say, oh yeah, here we go again, I know exactly where you're headed Mr. Movie and just be dismissive and easily miss things and not pick up on what's actually happening.
So, ok, ok, OK, you guys convinced me. The movie's on Watch Disney Channel now so I can go back and try to see things, especially Rowan's acting and go back either point-by-point if I have to in order to show my side, or just get flat-out proven wrong. That does actually bring up another point though - you said this was the first DCOM you've seen live in a while, as it is for me likewise. That's not by choice - ever since I started paying attention to the network, which was pretty close to when Disney Channel first launched the Watch Disney Channel app, I've been watching DCOMs since a week before premiere as they're released on WDC. The first and last DCOM I watched on its "live" premiere was Girl vs. Monster, the first DCOM premiere I've ever seen, and that was mostly because I didn't realize the movie had already been available on WDC beforehand. For some reason though Disney Channel decided to make an exception of Invisible Sister and it wasn't put up on WDC until today. I kind of wonder why. If you ask me it's either because Disney Channel wants to bolster what's called Live+SD (Same Day) ratings, i.e. the ratings of everybody who watched the show as it actually premiered verses OnDemand or on DVR recordings (still the most important rating metric as far as advertisers are concerned) or maybe Disney Channel thought the WDC premiers of Descendants (which got raked over the coals on most "professional" review sites) and especially Teen Beach 2 may have hurt the Live+SD ratings not so much because it stole away people who would've watched the Live+SD airing but because bad word-of-mouth from people who had seen it early spread and convinced many people they weren't worth watching (it doesn't seem to have effected Descendants too much but TB2 very much under-performed from expectations - they were at least hoping it'd match Descendants - and they might have figured bad reviews from places like the IMDb boards and such may have effected ratings). A few OnDemand recordings of Girl Meets World episodes started to be leaked onto Google Docs so that might've been a factor too.
So yeah, I'm going to go back and at least rewatch some of the scenes and maybe bother to watch the last 10 minutes or so instead of Candy Crush. I'm pretty damn sure I'm going to at least stand by my comments about the Lacrosse scene (how dare those other girls go to that other high school that isn't us and not be main characters in this movie! Let's cause massive physical injury to them and cheer and celebrate in their pain! Also - and I wanted to point this out in my first comments above, but it was running pretty late as it was, thanks Disney Channel's lack of consideration for the West Coast time zone i.e. the time zone Disney Channel's HQ and studios are based in - at least those girls were wearing protective gear. Molly had on a wool sweater and jeans. She might as well have been trying to tackle my non-existent Arizona Cardinals linebacker cousin in full gear while she herself was wearing nothing more but footsie pajamas and see how well that goes.) Call me overly-nitpicky, it's something I've been accused of being before.
As for Girl Meets World - eh, especially as I never anticipated that really being our main thing I don't see any reason why we can't talk about it here too. Just to let you know I'm with Christian and Sean on this one - I feel the same way about Meets Rah-Rah the same way you and everyone else feels about Invisible Sister. Yeah it had problems but it wasn't a bad episode. If I had to grade it I'd probably say it's a B- or a B and the MVP would go to whoever played the Jenkins cheerleader for essentially being Rowan's stuntwoman in that episode.
Not that I'm going to pull out the "we'll have to agree to disagree" card but it's interesting that we're on totally different sides on this Night of Rowan Premieres. As for Jessie, that's coming up soon. Where's Thundermans? Where's Bella? I figure I can just tack on whatever thoughts I had on Henry Danger and Game Shakers onto that (spoiler alert: I actually liked them this time, but not enough to dedicate a whole review to them). Also where are you on Gotcha Day? If you haven't seen the episode I can just go ahead and give it to you.
I have seen "Gotcha Day" but not enough to actually remember a lot of it for a whole review so you could swing that my way. As for The Thundermans, it is coming out of hiding very soon. I might actually do two episodes for it to make up for Bella since it CANNOT BE FOUND ANYWHERE. Seriously, does Nick just air the new episode once a week and then expect people to keep up with it? This is borderline criminal. Also, the more Thundermans I watch, the more I realize that it's the best thing Nickelodeon has right now, at least in live-action. The comic timing and chemistry have gotten a lot better. I always say to myself that this show will be appointment viewing but I can never bring myself to do it. I was watching "Are You Afraid of the Park?" tonight and that's when I knew that Thundermans reviews need to become a priority around here. Plus, a theme song that kicks ass. What more could you want?
I'm also glad you plan to check out the movie again. As for Girl Meets World, I will chalk this up as a no-decision. All I know is that next week, the pressure is on for this show to deliver. They want to build up the Texas episodes as the biggest adventure of all-time, then they better bring nothing but heat to the table. I want an emotional rollercoaster ride. I want something to chew on, I want golden reviewing material. I want Farkle's reaction to his devouring of all that barbecued chicken: MORE.
On a side note, I watched that episode of Best Friends Whenever. If the show is as entertaining as it was last Sunday, I might have to start making reviews a priority. The crossover was utilized WAY better there than on GMW, Riley and Lucas enhanced the episode with their barrage of jokes, and the time travel thing was perfect for this kind of episode. I know Landry Bender's character tries really hard to be witty, and I guess she's so-so. Shelby was gold, along with Barry. Oh man, Barry. Barry is the freaking man. "When I was fifteen, I dreamt about winning the Nobel Prize. When I was six, I got a screaming deal on a tux." Greatest quote of all-time.
I even saw some of Star vs. the Forces of Evil. Eden Sher's voice puts a little twinkle in my belly. Man, Disney Channel is really cleaning up with their animation. For the most part. I'm looking at you, Pickle & Peanut.
Huh, that's weird, the stuff I wrote about the book disappeared. I wonder if Mike deleted it by accident. Mike stop deleting my stuff!
Anyway I had said that Invisible Sister is based on a book called My Invisible Sister, which you probably already knew because in the credits sequence it says "Based on the book My Invisible Sister." Which is a little bit of a surprise actually, having come in thinking it was an original concept for the movie. My Invisible Sister actually had been on my suggested reading list from various sites and apps I used but I ignored it because it seemed like an elementary or middle school easy reader (don't ask me how it ended up on my suggested reading lists). Looking up the plot summary on Amazon.com it seems like, well...to quote Jessie regarding her Spencer Boldman-ex boyfriend, wow, you change a-lot! For starters the main protagonist is male, and the Invisible Sister in question seems more akin to an imaginary friend. Wouldn't be the first time though - Geek Charming was changed from the book, Radio Rebel was changed a lot from the book (to the point where they changed the title, the book is called Shrinking Violet), Zapped was change about as much as Spencer Boldman's character from Jessie changed, and the only things the Frenemies movie and book have in common is that the two main characters are named Avalon and Halley.
Having to type the same exact thing twice is mind-numbingly, fist-punch-through-drywall tedious and it totally saps all my fucking energy having to spend all that time writing it in the first place, seeing all that effort magically disappear, trying to remember what I wrote in the first place and then going through that effort again. And when I say it saps my energy, I mean it saps all the energy I need to prevent myself from completely demolishing my laptop (and this blog) in frustration. Mike stop deleting my stuff! Seriously though it's probably because Blogspot sucks super-hard on Donald Trump's unwiped ass sphincter and I've already found a number of alternate blogging options I'm probably going to migrate to.