Radio Rebel is the kind of film where all the of the many teens wear hats. Different styles of hats, and at different times. Why bother with genuinely building character, when you can use a hat to do it for you? After all, it is a straight to TV Disney Channel movie.
We’re immediately introduced to the concept of Radio Rebel, an anonymous radio broadcast by someone from Lincoln Bay High School, who goes by the same name. Among the majority of Lincoln Bay High the show has become very popular, because she tells it how it is, and plays some sick tunes while she does it. Everything is bright and colourful, in a very High School Musical sort of way.
We’re immediately let in on the fact that Radio Rebel’s secret identity is actually Tara Adams, a comically shy, unsociable, and awkward mess of a person — completely at odds with the persona she puts out on the “waves”. Coincidentally her new stepdad, Rob, happens to run SLAM FM, the hippest legitimate radio station in the area.
He becomes impressed with Radio Rebel, and would like to put her on the station. He quite quickly figures out her identity, after he walks in on Tara during the broadcast of a song. She tries to get rid of him and for some reason cannot queue another song to keep her identity secret, and simply must timidly broadcast her voice with Rob still in the room.
Tara’s lack of understanding when it comes to broadcasting radio comes back to haunt her at various points later in the movie, where pre-recording the show would be extremely useful. Strangely, though, pre-recording voice clips does come in useful when convenient for the plot. At one point it becomes difficult for her to reach the SLAM FM studio, and her and her friend must sneak in, completely forgetting she has an entire broadcast set-up in her room that she could have used. They clearly have the technology to patch her in in-studio, as, once more, this is used at another point, but only when convenient.
She confides in her best friend Audery, after Audrey threatens to scream randomly in the school field otherwise. Audery is generally a terrible and untrustworthy person. Her other two friends are guys, who don’t really do much other than lust after Radio Rebel, dress up in comical disguises to try and find out who she is, or use terrible computer programs to do so. Fellow Radio DJ, DJ Cami Q, at first seems menacing, until it becomes clear that nothing is being done with her character either.
Principal Moreno is the main antagonist of the film, a small and shrewd woman who wears suits. She hates fun, and more than anything, hates Radio Rebel. She’s annoying and authoritative, but in a way that does strike true. I have to question the validaty of some of her threats, such as to expel Radio Rebel, as I believe legally speaking, Tara would have the upperhand. Tara is a legal employee of SLAM FM.
The main thing Moreno begins to hold against her is broadcasting a guerilla dancefest at lunchtime, via a SLAM FM broadcasting van. But, when Moreno challenges DJ Cami Q (in charge of the dancefest to maintain Tara’s cover), Cami Q promptly shows Moreno the necessary documentation to prove she has a right to broadcast from the street. Later on, Moreno shows up during the finale, which takes places in an area she, of her own doing, has no real authority to be in. While I appreciate the elements of truth in her character, I find some of the things she does a little farfetched.
The other antagonist is Merrit Patterson, the typical social media savvy mean girl all the rage in these sorts of teen films. As Tara begins to snychronise with the Radio Rebel aspect of her personality, she also begins to stand up against Merrit more. She is somewhat dating Tara’s main love interest, Gavin. He is the bassist and keyboard player in the up and coming band The GGGGs. He is the only likeable and genuine character in the film, with a shocking last minute twist that will surprise you.
Debby Ryan’s performance as Tara Adams is terrible when she is acting meek and awkward. She overacts completely, often looking like she doesn’t know she is even being filmed. But, her performance picks back up when she is in “Radio Rebel Mode” — which is debatable Tara’s true form.
Radio Rebel is much too long, packed with things that annoyed me, and has a tonne of awkward plot contrivances. But, despite this, I actually kind of liked it a bit? It’s bad in just the right ways, and is watchable enough to be able to get through it without too much physical or mental pain, though due to its length, you might need to adjust your sitting position a few times. It strikes the right balance of good and bad (30:70), to be entertaining in its badness, and in that sense I recommend it.