Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Title: Shake, Rattle and Rock (1994)
Studio Line: Disney

A rockin' Renee Zellweger stars in this energetic story where a rebellious young woman sets out to prove that rock 'n' roll is here to stay! As the rock 'n' roll craze sweeps across America, Susan (Zellweger) and her friend are inspired to start their own band and open a hoppin' nightclub where the local teens can hang out. Their conservative hometown, however, isn't ready for "the devil's music" and is determined to stamp out the musical menace before any more teens are corrupted in the rock 'n' roll frenzy! With comedian Howie Mandel, Max Perlich (Blow) and Jenifer Lewis (Mystery Men) is a great ensemble cast -- fight for your right to rock with a fun feature film that doesn't skip a beat!

Director: Allan Arkush
Cast: Renee Zellweger, Howie Mandel, Patricia Childress, Max Perlich
DVD: Standard 1.33:1; audio English Dolby Surround 2.0; subtitles English; closed-captioned; single sided - single layered; 15 chapters; rated PG-13; 83 min.; $32.98; 8/7/01.
Supplements: None.
Purchase: DVD

Picture/Sound/Extras: C+/B/F

Death and taxes arenít the only inevitabilities in this world. Add to those the fact that whenever a performer reaches a certain level of prominence, their earlier work will be repackaged and shilled toward the new fans. This occurs in all artistic fields, as no one is exempt. The Beatles had to contend with some recordings they made as backing musicians, and Madonnaís session vocal work has made the rounds for years. Many other examples exist in the musical world as well.

However, I think this tendency is most notable in the realm of movies. Every actor has to work in some small parts and duds on the rise to fame, and all of those forgotten pieces will eventually come back to haunt them. Some are more problematic than others, such as Madonnaís A Certain Sacrifice and the semi-porn flick made by Sylvester Stallone, but no one escapes this fact of cinematic life: you will make some bad movies, and they will reappear when you become famous.

Now that Bridget Jonesís Diary has made Renee Zellweger a reasonably successful actress, itís her turn, and she gets off easy, at least for now; who knows what evils may lurk in her closet? However, Shake, Rattle and Rock, a 1994 Showtime film in which she appeared, wonít cause any career calamities.

Nor will it enhance her rťsumť, as it offers a bland and drab experience. Zellweger plays Susan, a teen in the late Fifties who lives for rock and roll. She sings and plays piano in a fledgling band with her friends Cookie (Patricia Childress) and Tony (Max Perlich). They all love the local rock TV show hosted by Danny Klay (Howie Mandel), which they hope to play someday.

Controversy arises when Susan meets and befriends a talented vocal group called Sireena and the Sirens. They bring the girls to the attention of Klay, who puts them on his show. One problem: these women happen to be black! This doesnít sit well with the suburban housewives; led by self-righteous E. Joyce Togar (Mary Woronov), these ladies are upset by the attempted racial integration, and they think rockís a harmful influence anyway. Susanís mom Margo (Nora Dunn) signs up for the group, which causes much tension at home.

Joyce conspires to make matters problematic for the kids, such as the incident when she calls the cops to break up a show at an unused Chinese restaurant. To complicate Susanís home life, she starts to become romantically involved with greaser Lucky (ex-X guitarist John Doe). So much teen angst, so little time!

From what I understand, Shake essentially remakes a 1956 flick of the same name. I have no idea where the two differ, other than the fact that Iím sure the original took a less campy tone. The 1994 film is played awfully broadly, and this attitude doesnít help make it additionally endearing.

Actually, it doesnít really harm the movie either, for Shake exists in that great netherworld of flicks that are neither here nor there. Nothing about it seems very compelling or entertaining, but it doesnít fall flat enough for me to genuinely consider it to be a dud. If forced to choose, Iíd have to put it on the negative side of the scale, but it isnít a terrible film; itís just fairly dull and lackluster.

Zellweger puts on a vibrant show as Susan, as she gets out the movieís most embarrassing moments during the opening credits; she has to lip-synch along with ďThe Girl Canít Help ItĒ as she bounces around her bedroom. Itís all a cakewalk after that, though she couldnít pull off the moments during which she was actually supposed to sing; Zellweger was more believable when she crooned along with Little Richardís voice than she was when we were supposed to buy her own vocals.

The rest of the cast also manage to avoid embarrassment, though I have no idea who thought it would make sense to cast Doe as Zellwegerís love interest. The guyís 15 years older than she, and the age difference appears obvious. Perhaps this fits in with the campy attitude, but it seems bizarre nonetheless.

Whatever the case may be, I feel like Iíve already spent too much time with Shake, Rattle and Rock. While the movie avoided the depths of crumminess, it still seems clear that without the rising starpower of its lead actress, it would never have seen the light of day on DVD. Thatís not necessarily a bad thing, as this bland offering probably should have stayed hidden. I didnít actively dislike the film, but I certainly could live without it.

One final note: at least Shake deserves some credit due to the fact that Zellweger really does star in the film. Many times, these retreads offer famous actors in bit parts. A recent egregious example occurred with Cash Crop, a DVD touted as a James Van Der Beek vehicle. Despite the impression left by the packaging, the Beekster barely appeared in the film. However, Zellweger indeed played the lead character in Shake, so I canít criticize the set due to false advertising.

The DVD:

Shake, Rattle and Rock appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not a bad picture, the film often betrayed its TV movie roots as it showed a fairly bland presentation.

Sharpness usually appeared reasonably distinct and crisp. At times the image became somewhat soft and fuzzy, but as a whole it looked fairly accurate and well-defined. Moirť effects and jagged edges demonstrated no significant concerns, and print flaws were a minor nuisance. Some light speckling occurred, but otherwise the image seemed to be clean.

Colors tended to appear somewhat drab and bleary. Periodically they came across as nicely vivid and accurate, but they also often displayed somewhat messy, runny tones that didnít present an especially pretty picture. Black levels were a bit flat, and contrast seemed moderately weak as parts of the program looked excessively bright. Shadow detail was bland and vague at times as well. Ultimately, enough of Shake, Rattle and Rock offered enough solid material to warrant a ďC+Ē grade, but it still displayed a variety of concerns.

While the Dolby Surround soundtrack of Shake, Rattle and Rock improved upon the picture, it did so for one reason alone: its music. The soundfield generally appeared strongly anchored to the forward spectrum, and most of the audio remained based in the center. Some mild ambient effects came from the sides, but otherwise it was a modest production.

However, the music displayed nice range throughout the show. The front spectrum displayed good stereo separation and localization, and the surrounds kicked in positive reinforcement of the various tunes. The music really brought the program to life at appropriate times.

Audio quality appeared decent, though the music again demonstrated the most positive aspects of the mix. The songs sounded nicely vibrant and lively. They showed good dynamics, with clean highs and punchy lows. Otherwise, the track seemed serviceable but unexceptional. Dialogue was acceptably natural and distinct, with no noticeable problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects were clean and accurate, though they showed no particular depth or boldness. Nonetheless, since the movie revolved around music, this mix did what it needed to do.

Less satisfying were the DVDís extras. All we get are some ďSneak PeeksĒ that offer trailers for All I Wanna Do, Bounce, Down to You, Boys and Girls, and Sheís All That. It would have been nice to learn a little something about the movieís roots, but we donít get anything in that vein - or any other, for that matter.

While some bonus materials might have been interesting, I doubt theyíd have made this a palatable package. Shake, Rattle and Rock was a perfectly ordinary TV movie that did little to stand out from the crowd. Without the modest starpower of Renee Zellweger, this flick would have been relegated to the appropriate depths of obscurity; even with her, it demonstrated no reason for renewed attention. The DVD offered a bland picture plus good sound and no substantial extras. Even Zellweger stalwarts should skip this lackluster disc.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.2857 Stars Number of Votes: 21
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