‘Lemonade Mouth’ underrated

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(Courtesy of Disney)

'Lemonade Mouth' promotional image

“That is the hottest guy I have ever seen. He looks like something a gay guy designed in a laboratory” is how Seth Rogan’s character  describes High School Musical veteran Zac Efron in the 2014 film Neighbors. Camp Rock’s Demi Lovato has become a pop music icon with three Teen Choice awards, three People’s Choice awards and an MTV Music Video award for Best Video with a Message. Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus has used her fame to found Happy Hippies Foundation, an organization which helps provide shelter for homeless LGBTQ+ teens.

Disney stars have speckled Hollywood with glory, a little bit of horror and entirely memorable moments all the way from Selena Gomez to Nick Jonas. But that doesn’t mean some Disney stars don’t get forgotten. Bridgit Mendler, Hayley Kiyoko, and Adam Hicks all came and went without a second glance from most, but their 2011 movie Lemonade Mouth deserves as much recognition as Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” or Jonas’s “Jealous,” a luxury the film currently does not receive. 

While Lemonade Mouth follows the classic structure of the unlikely underdog story, a literal band of misfits who meet in detention to compete in a local battle of the bands, the overarching theme of the strangers-to-rock band tale is to challenge norms and not to fear the social backlash. One of the musical’s theme songs, “Breakthrough,” is all about using the first amendment’s freedom of speech and defending yourself against societal control. Including lyrics like “Sometimes it’s raisin’ your voice. Sometimes it’s makin’ some noise. Sometimes it’s proving to the world it was wrong,” the song becomes an anthem for the titular band and their fans, as well as the movie’s inspirational theme. 

Beginning with five strangers together in the music room serving detention, The Breakfast Club-esque chaos ensues, leading to an impromptu rock session and perfectly harmonized song. The five come together and form a band which they dub ‘Lemonade Mouth’ as a reminder of the lemonade vending machine outside the music room where they met.

The lemonade machine is the icon of the school basement, where the less popular and therefore less important school clubs like Chess club and Music go to die. The lemonade machine stands as a trademark of the misfit students and becomes a catalyst in the band’s journey towards friendship and trust when they decide to stand up against its removal. The removal of the lemonade machine essentially affirms the school’s lack of support for the social groups that meet around the it. The classic Disney cheesiness is still abounding, but the variety of the characters and their ability to overcome adversity trumps any ridiculousness the movie could possess.

Stella (Kiyoko), Charlie  (Blake Michael), Wen (Hicks), Mo (Naomi Scott), and Olivia (Mendler) comprise Lemonade Mouth’s five members who each deal with an individual conflict through the film. Stella plays the guitar and is an independent Asian woman who leads the band into stardom through protests against big corporations and selfish people. Charlie, the drummer, is a Hispanic man who feels like a disappointment under the shadow of his very successful older brother. Keyboardist Wen has to deal with his divorced father remarrying a much younger woman and what it would mean to have her as a stepmom. Mo plays the bass as a rebellion against her very strict and education-focused Indian parents. And finally, the lead singer Olivia is cooping with her mother’s passing and a father in prison while living with her grandmother.

Not only do these high school kids have a varied ethnic background, their life experience is breaks traditional Disney Channel original film conventions and helps bring the characters together. The normal, white, popular high schoolers portrayed in the film are the character opposites for the main five. The distinction between Lemonade Mouth and the norm emphasizes the importance of the minority voice in the current American society, and that lesson, combined with the underlying message of self-confidence, is what makes this movie so important and superior to other classic Disney films.