Picture This

Picture skipping this sorry excuse for a film and going straight to the really cool extras on the DVD.

Picture This

Director: Stephen Herek
Cast: Ashley Tisdale, Kevin Pollack, Robbie Amell, Cindy Busby, Shenae Grimes, Lauren Collins
Distributor: MGM
MPAA rating: PG-13
First date: 2008
US DVD Release Date: 2008-07-22

Upon concluding our slog through Picture This, a movie which seemed, initially, to hold the promise of offering Valuable Lessons for Teens, my Viewing Companion turned to me, threw her hands up in the air in exasperation and declared “No one learns any Valuable Lessons in this movie”. I couldn’t help but agree.

See, generally with teen/tweener romantic comedy piffle of this nature, there is some concluding moral to justify its existence, some sort of blandly trite platitude which binds all the outrageous behavior and improbable chain of events together under an umbrella of good sense. There is revelation at the end of the tunnel, a Valuable Lesson is learned – you know, something along the lines of “Money and beauty and popularity aren’t everything”, or “Landing the guy of your dreams at the cost of your soul just isn’t worth it”. You know, stuff that every high schooler should learn.

Those are Valuable Lessons, to be sure, and seem to be exactly the kind Picture This is trying to impart, at least at first. Except that, 20-minutes in, “poor” “ugly” “dorky” Mandy (a valiant Ashley Tisdale, fighting a hopeless uphill battle against a horrid script) bags her dream guy with effortless ease and seems set to thwart the cabal of mean girls who’ve plagued her all her high school years. Well, that was easy – but isn’t this all supposed to come at the end of the film? Interesting developments here -- perhaps Picture This will stand the genre and clichés on their heads, pulling the Mean Girls template inside out. Promising…

Well, or so we thought, Viewing Companion and I, until we discovered that Picture This had a whole different Valuable Lesson rotting its way outward from its diseased core, deceptively hidden among its fun and frivolity. Because, you see, when Viewing Companion made her post-film proclamation, she was only half right. A Valuable Lesson is learned here -- just not a good one. To wit, that it’s perfectly okay to lie your head off to your parents without compunction, as long as you are creative with your subterfuge and, in the end, get away with it. Which, fine, we’ve seen this done a thousand times before, too. That’s not the odious part.

No, what really is quite galling is that, from about the 30-minute mark on, the film becomes some sort of bizarre (and quite creepily icky) morality play/ tug-o-war between father and daughter, about her trying to win his trust, and about him needing to monitor (quite literally, with a video phone) her every move (though ostensibly trying to let go of his little girl at the same time). Again, a thousand times before.

But what reasonable person would think that it’s morally consistent and permissible for the daughter to win her father’s trust, ultimately, by continuously and deliberately lying to him, with morally questionable ruses of ever escalating improbability, and then let her get away with it all? Like, not just get away with and succeed at the whole point of all the lying (meeting her dream guy at the Big Party), but succeed in winning her father’s trust. Forget about the whole logical disconnect at work here for a second – what sort of message is this sending “The Kids”?

Picture This premiered on the ABC Family Channel (before going straight to DVD), and is very much marketed as and supposedly made to be a family friendly, kid-safe movie. Isn’t that the whole raison d'être of the Family Channel, which is but one genome removed from the Disney Channel? And yet the questionable behavior of our heroine does nothing but relentlessly undercut any sane notion of personal responsibility and parental authority.

Lest you think Viewing Companion and I are just prudish moral crusaders, let it be known that our objections aren’t necessarily moral (despite our protestations above), but, rather, logical. The premise of the film, the entire script, its set-up and odious conclusion, make so little sense to us, strictly on a filmic level, that we have a hard time believing an actual human being wrote this, another human being green-lit this mess, and then a whole film crew and cast signed on board. For shame, ABC Family Channel. For shame “Temple Mathews” (screenwriter -- if that is your real name). And for shame Ashley Tisdale, for both producing and starring in this mess.

A quick note: Viewing Companion and I are unapologetic fans of Ms. Tisdale, who is fairly brilliant as the high-strung, high-maintenance “Queen Bee” Sharpay in the High School Musical films. She has good chops and effortless comic timing, and is really the only bright spot in this disaster. But even her gung-ho gameness withers in the face of the script. It’s soul destroying stuff, really.

We also give the ever reliable Kevin Pollack (playing Tisdale’s father) a pass, though we imagine the movie would have been better if he’d just done his transcendent Christopher Walken impersonation the whole time he was on screen. Check it out on Youtube sometime -- it’s one of the all time great impersonations.

Viewing Companion and I fully expected the extras for Picture This to be as obnoxious and bottom-of-the-barrel as the film itself, so how delighted were we when we found at least two which were actually quite fun, or at least more fun than watching the film itself. Of course, the first one we sampled, a 12-question multiple choice quiz about what we just witnessed, requires actual watching of the film, which is too bad. But other than that, it was quite enjoyable, and there are little hilarious clips from the film after you answer each question, either congratulating you for your astuteness, or mocking you for your inattention.

I’m happy to report that Viewing Companion passed the test with flying colors (she was obviously paying closer attention than I) and was roundly praised by Ashley Tisdale, whereas I was summarily denigrated when I screwed up on the very first question. Ah, the dangers of DVD reviewing. Our reward for passing: A two-minute behind the scenes clip where all the girls in the film do a lot of squealing over one another. I would think that something more substantial would have been in order for our effort.

The other great extra (my favorite) is a selection of three short commentaries presented under the totally awesome heading “GR8! SCENE SPECIFIC TEXTING!” OMG!, it was so totes cool! See, the DVD gives you the option to watch these scenes with commentary by actresses Shenae Grimes and Lauren Collins (who play Tisdale’s BFFs in the film), delivered entirely in scrolling cellphone text speak. This is if you choose the “Cool” option -- if you are, say, over the age of 18, you may want to choose the “Oblivious” setting, which scrolls out in actual readable English.

Anyway, the text commentary is a horror of strings of consonants, numbers swapped out for letters, illogical acronyms, inscrutable syntax, and cryptic hieroglyphs. We had a ball freezing each “sentence” and trying to decode what they were writing, and I’m not exaggerating when I say we spent at least… um, well, at least a half hour doing this (we don’t get out much). Viewing Companion had better luck than I, but we were both flummoxed by “3:o)z”, which somehow or other turns out to be “girlz”. O RLY? Anyway, watching the commentary section on this “Cool” setting was much better than “Oblivious”, which contributed nothing with its obviousness. Better to let our actresses’ thoughts remain a mystery.

A “Making Of” feature and a string of short (really short, like 30 seconds) interviews called “Cell Phone Confessions” round out the platter, and add absolutely nothing redeeming, rendering the extras a draw, really. Too bad, since the other two were among my favorite DVD extras of all time.






Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.


Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia, East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.


The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.


Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.


For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?


Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".


Becky Warren Shares "Good Luck" and Discusses Music and Depression (premiere + interview)

Becky Warren finds slivers of humor while addressing depression for the third time in as many solo concept albums, but now the daring artist is turning the focus on herself in a fight against a frightful foe.


Fleet Foxes Take a Trip to the 'Shore'

On Shore, Fleet Foxes consist mostly of founding member Robin Pecknold. Recording with a band in the age of COVID-19 can be difficult. It was just time to make this record this way.


'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.


Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".


'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.


Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.


Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.