Every Wednesday, we will revisit a Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) and share our thoughts on the film, why we loved it when we first watched it, and if the film is still as entertaining today.
The first film up is Gotta Kick It Up!, which premiered on Disney Channel on July 26, 2002. It stars America Ferrera (before Ugly Betty), Camille Guaty (who we interviewed recently!), and Susan Egan. The film is written and directed by Ramón Menéndez, who also wrote the screenplay for the notable Latino drama, Tortilla Soup. It follows the story of a group of middle school girls, who guilt the new teacher, who used to be a dancer, into coaching the school’s dance team.
One of the reasons I chose Gotta Kick It Up! as our first pick is because of all the DCOMs, it’s one of the few that I can distinctly remember being excited to watch. Growing up in a multicultural household, I couldn’t help but gravitate toward a film that featured characters that look like me and my family. Gotta Kick It Up! is one of the few films to feature a minority in the lead roles, and it does a good job of showing a range of different types of characters and personalities, not relying too hard on stereotypes.
It was fun re-watching the film the other day, and I was a bit surprised to realize that the girls are in middle school because I swear when I was younger, I thought they were high schoolers. With more knowledge and hindsight, I couldn’t help but find it corny that the girls adopted the Cesar Chavez motto “Si Se Puede.” However, despite a few hiccups, the film’s positive message shines through, pointing out the importance of sisterhood and teamwork as well as self-empowerment. It is the kind of film that girls from all kinds of backgrounds can relate to, and I love that no one questioned for a minute that a character who looks like America Ferrera can dance.
I admit to getting more out of the film now than I did when I was younger. In ways I enjoyed it less, but in other ways, I ended up appreciating it more. Diversity in children’s entertainment has improved in the past decade, but we still have a long way to go. But for Gotta Kick It Up!, my 13-year-old self would like to thank Disney for making that movie at that time.
Next week on Disney Channel Masterpiece Theater…