I remember watching several girl-power-y, mildly cheesy Disney Channel original movies with my sisters when I was around 10 or 12. I’m looking at you, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, and yes you, Cheetah Girls.
It seems to me that there aren’t a lot of movies like this around these days anymore. Probably at least in part because tween girls are skipping ahead to movies like Pitch Perfect or the slew of Netflix teen chick flicks out there that are quite a bit more grown-up than my childhood Disney favorites.
So I was kind of excited to watch the tween/teen hip-hop-themed movie Next Level, which is listed on IMDB.com as a “family” film.
Next Level’s Premise
This movie’s plot isn’t so very different from those Disney Channel movies I watched as a kid. It centers around a group of girls at a performing-arts camp who are competing for a title. There’s a mean girl (Emily Skinner, Andi Mack), a new girl (Instagram star Lauren Orlando), some mindless groupies who aren’t so mindless after all, and some boys from the basketball camp next door.
There are some good lessons learned by the end, and probably most appealing to the target audience, there are a lot of fun song-and-dance scenes.
The film also features some young but influential personalities from social media and YouTube that some tweens and teens might already be familiar with. And while the acting and writing certainly have their moments of cheese here and there, I feel like the high points outweigh the bad in this one.
Some of the other young stars include Hayden Summerall, Chloe East, Brooke Butler, Ellarose Kaylor, Will Simmons, Jack Vale, Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave and Chloe Lukasiak.
Is it really family-friendly?
Especially considering that the main movies we’ve seen in the past few years that are set in this type of world have been the hard PG-13 Pitch Perfect series, it might seem dubious that this hip-hop-centered film could be the type of thing you’d want to let your tween girls watch.
But I was seriously impressed by how clean it was. No language, and no sex or innuendo.
There are a couple of romantic subplots with the basketball boys, and it’s all refreshingly innocent (only a hug or two and a cheek kiss). And even the hip-hop songs they sing aren’t dirty (and I watched with subtitles, so it wasn’t even that I just couldn’t understand the words).
The dancing was hip-hop dancing, but the typical amount of raciness for that type of thing is very subdued in this film. Think a bit of hip-shaking-type moves here and there, but very mild compared to what you normally see in hip-hop.
My one complaint along these lines are that some of the outfits the girls wear are a bit on the skimpy side. Again, mild for the world it’s set in (and probably about what a lot of teen girls’ wardrobes look like these days) but not really what I’d let my own daughter wear when she’s that age.
Next Level isn’t rated, but I suspect it would come in as a G.
Next Level is a solid choice
For preteen and early teen girls that are interested in the world of song and dance, this is a really good bet -- and certainly a very wholesome alternative to the more grown-up teen chick flicks out there.
And for the grown-ups like me who are a little nostalgic for the clean, girl-power-y and mildly cheesy movies of the early 2000s, this is a fun watch as well.
I think we could really stand to have a lot more family-friendly entertainment options like Next Level in queues these days.
Click here for the official website, which has information on all the digital platforms offering the movie, including Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play and Vudu. The soundtrack is also available for listening and purchase; click here.
Editor's Note: Family Theater Productions is one of the companies behind Next Level, along with The Loft Entertainment and distributor MarVista Entertainment, but Adrienne's opinion is her own.
Image: MarVista Entertainment