There's no doubt Disney is cashing in on the overwhelming appeal of its two stars, moppy-haired "High School Musical" alumnus Corbin Bleu and "Akeelah and the Bee's" Keke Palmer. But that's just the hook. Director Paul Hoen delivers a taut and immensely entertaining pic from a script by Doreen Spicer, Regina Hicks and Karin Gist.
Bleu stars as Izzy, a Brooklyn boxing hopeful training daily in his dad's gym for the local title. Izzy's dad, Kenneth (David Reivers), has put a lot of time and energy into Izzy's training, especially since the death of Izzy's mother. Kenneth is stuck in a time that no longer exists, but his attempts to re-create the life they shared with his mother -- the dinners, the hairstyles for Izzy's precocious but cute sister Karin (Kylee Russell) -- is touching. And Izzy tries to help by living his dad's dream of winning the Golden Gloves championship.
Boxing, Kenneth tells Izzy, is mostly heart, but Izzy's heart is swayed by his beguiling neighbor Mary (Palmer). She's a Double Dutch competitor who just lost a member of her team after earning a spot in the city championship. Izzy is amazed at how much he enjoys the sport when Mary challenges him to give it a try.
In terms of public awareness and respect, Double Dutch as a sport probably falls somewhere between synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics -- which is not to diminish the degree of difficulty of all three. In fact, if there's any lingering doubt about the athleticism involved in Double Dutch, it's put to rest here. The showmanship on display is impressive, and the film features several top world competitors as part of the action.
Real-life father and son acting duo Reivers and Bleu work as more than just a publicity stunt. The heart of the film isn't the romance between Izzy and Mary -- it's the relationship between Izzy and his dad. Reivers proves his son's talent isn't just a fluke. Neither is the acclaim Palmer won for "Akeelah." Bleu and Palmer perform a good deal of their own action sequences, and both are featured on what is sure to be a chart-topping soundtrack.
Camera, David A. Makin, editor, Janice Hampton, music, Frank Fitzpatrick, casting, Monica Swann, Stephanie Gorin.
1 HOUR, 24 MIN.