When her mother weds a retired general, a cool and carefree teen gets new marching orders and is shipped off to military school in upstate New York.
In a plot that would rival and fit right in with the very best of non-vacation Mary-Kate & Ashley, teen sensation Lizzie Maguire’s life is flipped turned upside down when she’s sent off to military school, with its STRICT! RIGID! RULES! that completely clash with her free-spirited self.
Hilary Duff as Kelly
Hilary is helpfully demonstrating the same look you’ll get when you remember how incredibly pretty she’s been her entire life. (This aired when she was only 14, WHAT.)
On a less shallow front, Kelly starts off pretty annoying and bratty, and she plays heavily into that klutzy girl trope. Like, seriously — this girl defies all physics and bipedalism. One notable such scene involves her falling down a hill, getting covered in mud, and careening directly into the middle of a dance. If this sounds like the pinnacle of ridiculousness, that’s because it is. Fortunately for Kelly, she’s being played by the charming Hilary Duff, so any poor attempts at physical comedy are basically forgiven.
Christy Carlson Romano as Cadet Captain Jenny Stone
Our intrepid Cadet Kelly immediately gets off the wrong foot with the military school’s resident hardass, Kim Ren Stevens Possible. The Disney Channel was smart enough to pair up its two biggest female stars at the time and create a movie around them.
Shawn Ashmore as Cadet Major Brad Rigby
OK, look: I may love the Duff now, but I didn’t always. So OBVIOUSLY Young Me had only tuned in for Shawn Ashmore. Upon rewatching, I was pleasantly surprised that there were only one-sided romantic undertones from Kelly, in the vein of a harmless crush on an unattainable older guy who sees her as an amusing little sister. And thank goodness for that, because remember how Hilary was only 14? Shawn was 22. (This concludes the learning-actors’-ages portion of the program.)
Gary Cole as General Joe Maxwell
A quintessential “Hey, It’s That Guy!”, Gary has been in so many freaking things that you’re bound to recognize him from at least one of them. Here, he’s Kelly’s stepfather with a tough exterior that slowly learns to embrace his inner marshmallow.
Andrea Lewis as Carla
OMG IT’S BABY HAZEL BEFORE SHE STARTED DATING WHEELCHAIR JIMMY.
Aimee Garcia as Gloria
Aimee’s one of those actors that I see and always think, “What do I know her from?!?” Despite her lengthy filmography, I think I know the answer to this now.
Couch-Sharing Capability: It Depends
Did you and your potential viewing party grow up on Disney Channel hijinks? Do y’all have a deep, unabiding love for Hilary Duff? Even if those are in no way correct, this movie might still entice connoisseurs of cheesy things and dance movies.
Yes, dance movies — which is what I realized when Kelly joins the drill team. Sure, there’s fancy rifle-twirling action and way different choreography, but it follows many a dance movie script of an unlikely duo teaming up to work towards a common goal. With practice montages. Ergo, dance movie appeal.
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Front-Load and Taper Off
I’ll be honest, y’all — I almost turned the movie off really early on. I’ve seen it before, but I totally hadn’t remembered there would be SO.MUCH.SHRIEKING. But seeing as my beloved Shawn Ashmore hadn’t even shown up yet, I pushed myself to persevere. And once I did, it was actually still fairly enjoyable! So have liquid reinforcement ready in case you need rescuing, but you probably won’t need it as much as you might fear you would.
Use of Your Streaming Subscription: This Is Why You Have Streaming
I don’t mean to say Cadet Kelly why you should have a streaming service, but it’s the exact type of thing you’ll end up watching just because it’s there, i.e., the streaming way. Plus, it’s (sadly) refreshing to have a conflict between two teenage girls that omg isn’t about boy.*
*Yes, boy adjacent, but Brad is really more eye candy** than a love interest.
**Hey, it can’t win ’em all.