Directed by: Oz Scott
Written by: Alison Taylor
Starring: Raven-Symoné, Adrienne Bailon, Kiely Williams, Sabrina Bryan
An abundance of girl power and friendship will never get old because of the way it counteracts the constant negativity young girls must battle as they grow up. Having this positive influence makes it critical for films seen as inferior due to their budget and target audience to leave their impact, as they carry so much power. Disney Channel original films rightfully get brushed off for their lack of merits, but The Cheetah Girls still manages to tell a heartwarming story of sisterhood.
A group of four girls form a singing group called the Cheetah Girls and they have high aspirations to land a record deal and become wealthy. Spearheading the group is Galleria Garibaldi (Raven-Symoné), who writes the songs and pushes all of the others to step up their game if they want to make it big. Things get complicated when they get approached with the opportunity to sign a record deal, but it interferes with their identity as a group.
Endless positivity and surprisingly poignant, The Cheetah Girls pushes the issues that could be discussed in Disney Channel original movies. Most of the time these movies suffer from wooden acting and razor-thin stories, but these girls maintain their footprint in popular culture because of the way they impact their target audience. Most people coming across this caliber of films did so when a young kid or adolescent and something within the story or the characters hits them. This happens in every single generation, where younger folks look back at what those older enjoyed as children and scoff at the ridiculousness. We all have them, but The Cheetah Girls still manages to hold up.
While having the dance and song sequences one would expect in this movie, The Cheetah Girls dives into the idea of how much relationships with parents can dictate life along with maintaining one’s identity even with corporations trying to change it. Three of the four girls have a throughline involving their parents. Galleria must contend with a mother, who sees the young girl’s dream of pop superstardom as merely a wish and should focus on college instead. Chanel’s (Adrienne Bailon) mother appears to be getting serious in dating a man and she may be forced to move to Paris. Dorinda (Sabrina Ryan) battles with revealing her biological mother left her and she now lives in a foster home. Scenes shared between these girls regarding their parents truly get at something vital, which surprised me watching this again as an adult. It certainly went harder than any other Disney Channel original movie in terms of tackling the insecurities and circumstances of this particular nature.
Additionally, this story demonstrates the struggle of keeping one’s identity when trying to succeed with a recording label. The brand of the Cheetah Girls rides and dies with the animal they chose to headline their name. They wear cheetah print like it was going out of style and utter the name of the animal at every instance. I guarantee you could make a very dangerous drinking game from every instance where they say cheetah. Regardless, it becomes their brand and what unites them as young women. Unsurprisingly, it becomes a focal point of the story of when they must potentially abandon their name and brand in hopes to make it big due to what marketers believe will translate to success on a grander scale. This pushes their resolve and commitment to each other at a different level.
For all the praise, I’ve heaped on this film, it still remains a mixed bag because the third act of the film is simply horrendous. The climax of the feature involves attempting to save a character not really made important in the slightest beforehand, which then turns into a large circus. I was willing to forgive some of the cheesiness in the earlier scenes because they were draped in the positive message of this film, but everything occurring towards the end became quite unwatchable.
The vibrancy and music of The Cheetah Girls still rings through today and should be something any young person can watch and receive this positive message. It teaches people to be themselves even when it becomes lucrative to be fake. Additionally, it shows the importance of not judging others because of the support system they have or lack. You will never look at cheetah print the same, but they definitely make it work in this lovely and bright film.