The faces may be new, but not the concept. “Geek Charming” is an opposites-attract story set in high school and starring Sarah Hyland (“Modern Family”) and Matt Prokop (“High School Musical 3”). It’s formulaic and predictable and exaggerated in a “Mean Girls” sort of (WhatEVer!) way. But underneath the film’s superficial skin there beats a real heart that holds some positive values for teens. And there’s a big payoff at the end—though that’s almost spoiled by a spurt of didacticism.
Hyland plays Dylan Schoenfield, daughter of a rich L.A. real-estate developer who lives in a house that would make Kelly Osbourne jealous. When we first see her, she’s got the “fabulous” attitude of a Sharpay Evans with an entourage to match. She’s vapid and shallow and reduces everything to a popularity index. Something either elevates your popularity or reduces it, and that’s how she bases her decisions, such as they are. She dates a volleyball star not for his personality but because he’s the coolest boy in the school. And her friends are more vapid than she is. We pick up the story as Dylan is determined to win Blossom Queen at the school and secure her popularity forEVer (yes, that’s how shallow she appears). Dylan has one pair of shoes for every day of the year; Josh, who jumps into her dad’s mall fountain to rescue her purse, has one pair, and it gets a laugh when she takes her purse from him but then brushes his sneakers he’d removed (Ewwww!) into the water.
But she’s a sympathetic character, too. We learn that she lost her mother when she was eight—it wouldn’t be Disney if the mother didn’t die, right?—and still misses her terribly. Plus, if you get her away from the school environment, she almost drops the act—though you get the feeling she’s been putting on airs for so long that she’s forgotten what her real personality is like. It turns out that this kid wears glasses and can actually hold an intelligent conversation with Dad or another brainiac.
Into her life comes film geek Josh (Prokop), who’s introduced to the audience in a cafeteria scene that has him accidentally upending a tray of green noodles right onto the puffed-out chest of Dylan, who’s in a catfight for the Blossom Queen crown with a ruthless cheerleader named Nicole (Andrea Brooks). He wants to win a Puget Sound film competition just as badly, so that makes him as single-minded of purpose as she. And since he needs a subject for his film and she thinks a film might seal her bid for the crown, they strike a deal shortly after the fountain scene. And for the rest of the film Josh follows her around with his camera as the two navigate their own circles and occasionally enter each other’s orbit.
We get the predictable changes of “friends” and the slow-but-reluctant attraction that makes every romantic comedy tick. But for much of the film we also get a lot of what we’re supposed to believe is current vapid teenspeak: things like “Oh no she did not!” “What’s the 411 on your Amy crush?” and “Sorry guys, I got stuck in traffic on the diva freeway.” We also get the obligatory makeover montage and reversal of fortunes. But Hyland and Prokop are cute together, and the end just about justifies the means in this film. It packs an emotional punch that would have been punchier if the filmmakers hadn’t decided to “speechify” the film’s message.
Disney’s DVD production values have been pretty consistent, and so it’s no surprise that “Geek Charming” looks very good in standard def. Colors are bold and bright, and edges have a nice line to them. “Geek Charming” is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, “enhanced” for 16×9 monitors.
The audio is TV-standard Dolby Digital 2.0 in English, with subtitles in English SDH, French, and Spanish. It’s clean and clear, but front-heavy, so don’t look for a lot of resonance.
“Geek Charming” features some curious extras. There’s nothing at all that pertains to the film, except for a pair of silver-colored charms that, put together, form two hands holding a heart with the words “Best Friends” written across it.
Other than that, there are 10 episodes of another Disney Channel series, “Shake It Up!,” about a pair of teen girls who want to become professional dancers. Included are “Shake It Up, Up and Away” Pts. 1 & 2, “Double Pegasus It Up,” “Three’s a Crowd It Up,” “Beam It Up,” “Doctor It Up,” “Throw It Up,” “Twist It Up,” “Match It Up,” and “Age It Up.” I watched several of these episodes and didn’t think them very good, but my 10-year-old daughter loves the show because of all the dancing.
“Geek Charming” isn’t a great film, and I’m not even sure it’s a very good one. Call it a clichéd film about high school and its stereotypes that has better acting and a stronger emotional core than most of its kind.