Top 10 Sports Disney Channel Original Movies (Part 1)
Over Spring Break I was feeling a bit nostalgic and decided to tune in to the Disney Channel to see what kinds of shows the next generation of soft Americans are watching. This overwhelming nostalgia got me thinking about some of my favorite Disney Channel Original Movies, or DCOMS for short. In their glory days, Disney Channel would release extremely low-budget movies directly to TV about once a month. These movies were geared towards kids like myself: under the age of thirteen and adamantly against sunshine and friends. A lot of these films centered on sports, and the life-long lessons about friendship and dedication that they teach you (cue the Suite Life of Zack and Cody’s stage audience going “Awwwww”). I loved sports DCOMs, and after a few years of having a social life I can finally admit I may have even had a viewing party or two for new movies.
Don’t get me wrong, these were horrible movies. But like a good Romantic Comedy, they’re so unwatchable they hold a special place in your heart (or is that just me?). Unfortunately, I had to retire from the DCOM game in 2010, with the last movie I saw being “Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam Session”. Joe Jonas’ performance in the second installment of the Camp Rock series was so moving that it felt wrong to continue watching the new releases. However, after Spring Break, I have decided to compile the Top 10 Greatest Sports DCOMs of all time. Enjoy.
10.) Eddie’s Million Dollar Cook-Off
This movie was included not because of how much I enjoyed the movie, but merely because of how it changed the game for DCOMs. It has everything you look for in Disney Sports movie: a promising high-school athlete, an overbearing father who doesn’t “get” his son’s other hobbies, and the guy who plays Eddie in “That’s So Raven”. Torn between his love of baseball and his undying admiration for Bobby Flay, Eddie decides to enter a cook-off with a million dollar prize! You may be asking, “Hey Joseph, why would there be a $1,000,000 scholarship at some random high school, and why would they let a freshman enter?” To that, I respond, don’t ask questions. If you ask critical questions about the plot of a DCOM, you’re either pretentious or dumb. Anyways, Eddie makes it to the finals of the cook-off, but wait! The cook-off is the same day as the baseball finals! Movie over, right? Wrong, again! Eddie chooses baseball to make his dad, the coach, happy. But much like Chad Danforth in High School Musical, Orlando Brown’s character encourages him to leave the game early to go to the cook-off. Eddie shows up late to the competition, and finds out that Bobby Flay is judging! (seriously, how much money does this damn high school have?) His father learns that his son has nobody to help him, so he intentionally gets ejected from the game to go help Eddie. Even though he comes in second, Bobby Flay admits that his dish was actually the best. His team wins the baseball finals, and children across America learned that you can balance both sports and activities that will get you bullied. Eddie’s ability to stand-up to his dad and juggle his passions paved the way for future DCOM stars like Zefron (Zac Efron to lay people) in High School Musical.
9.) Gotta Kick It Up!
What an absolute classic. Based on the heart-warming true story of an all Hispanic middle school dance team, everything changes when a former corporate executive becomes the new coach. The girls are passionate, but lack direction and discipline, which is understandable since they’re twelve years-old. Somehow, this white, middle-aged business woman taps into her extensive knowledge of Latin dance to help give the team an identity. She instills a great amount of self-belief in the team, and the girls start to dream. In a dramatic confrontation between the coach and the captain of the team about societal pressures, the main character Daisy looks into the coach’s eyes defiantly and says, “Si se puede. It means ‘Yes We Can’.” The coach is blown away by this new expression, which is shocking considering she’s a Latin dance expert but lacks a basic understanding of the Spanish language. This influential movie taught me to believe in myself, and how to communicate that idea in Spanish.
8.) Jump In!
After his breakout role as Troy Bolton’s best friend (Chad Danforth) in High School Musical, Corbin Bleu was given the lead role in Jump In! In a star-studded film, Bleu assumes the starring role of high school boxing super star Izzy Daniels. Like a majority of the movies on this list, Izzy is a promising young athlete coached by his father, who wants him to follow in his footsteps. Another Disney dad trying to live vicariously through his son by forcing him to play his favorite sport? Well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Everything changes when Mary Thomas (played by Keke Palmer) moves next door, and opens his eyes to the world of competitive Double Dutch. His experience in training for a real sport means that Izzy makes the transition easily, and discovers that he is a jump roping phenom. Despite being one match away from the Golden Glove (I’m gonna call B.S. on that one, Disney) Izzy is still drawn towards Mary’s Double Dutch team: the Joy Jumpers. Half-way through the movie, we are treated to a classic Disney showdown. Izzy and his boxing rival Rodney (a misunderstood bully) engage in incredibly soft trash-talk, while Mary exchanges jibes with her team’s archrival: The Double Dutch Dragons. After about a week of training in order to join the Joy Jumpers, he becomes the best jump-roper on the team and loses all of his ability to box, which totally makes sense. In fact, he becomes the best so quickly, that he changes the team name to the Hot Chili Steppers. Mary helps him stand-up to his father, and he eventually wins both the Golden Glove and the city Double Dutch championship. If you love happy endings, boxing matches mixed with break-dancing, and dope training montages, then Jump In! is the movie for you.
7.) Double Teamed
Since Disney Channel was churning out so many straight to TV movies, it’s easy to understand how they might run out of ideas. This utter lack of originality gave us “Double Teamed”, and I will be forever grateful. Based on the lives of former WNBA stars Heather and Heidi Burge, this brave tale chronicles twin sisters pursuing their passions and independence. In order for you to understand the complex personalities of these well-developed characters, I’ll use a sophisticated Disney analogy: Heidi is Zack, and Heather is Cody. Now that you know all you need, let’s disect this plot filled with passion, betrayal, and demonstrations of teamwork so beautiful they would make Greg Popovich cry. Long story short, Heather is better than Heidi at basketball, but Heidi develops an easily guardable move that somehow makes her unstoppable. Heather gets pissed, pushes herself too hard, and gets what is in all likelihood a slightly sprained ankle. In their next game, Heidi can’t carry the team by herself and Heather realizes her sister needs her. She suits up at half-time and limps out onto the court, wincing at the minor pain she experiences with each step. Heidi starts chanting “Heather! Heather! Heather!” and all 45 people in the gym join in. Fast-forward to the 4th quarter (presumably because the Director ran out of money) and Heather uses Heidi’s move, with her permission of course, and scores the game winning lay-up. Everything comes full circle when the sisters face each other in a WNBA game years later, even though the actual Burge sisters never played each other. So thank you, Disney, for taking the beautiful story of two sisters overcoming their differences to pave the way for generations of future female basketball players, and focusing on three unimportant midseason games in their junior year of high school. Bravo.
6.) High School Musical
There is really only one thing that can be said about High School Musical: it changed the game. The first installment in the famous trilogy centers on teenage heartthrob Zefron, and the societal pressures he faces as he uses his singing ability to sweep Vanessa Hudgens off her feet. Filled with horrible jokes and classic high school stereotypes (ex: singing is lame, athletes are straight up dumb, and wearing glasses makes you a nerd), HSM is a movie for the ages. Zefron’s character, Troy Bolton, discovers at the age of 17 that he has a beautiful singing voice when he’s forced to sing karaoke at a New Years Eve party. He’s partnered up with a beautiful stranger named Gabriela Montez (played by Vanessa Hudgens) and the two fall in love immediately. After some painfully awkward flirting, they exchange phone numbers hoping to see each other again some day. In a classic Disney twist, Gabriela somehow transfers to Troy’s high school and their forbidden love begins to take shape. Against the wishes of HBIC Sharpay Evans (played by Ashley Tisdale), Gabriela and Troy try out for the winter musical. The quirky music teacher forbids them to audition because they were roughly seven seconds late to the audition, but they sing anyway and get a call-back. The school devolves into chaos as the student body learns that an athlete is trying out for a school play. There is absolute pandemonium in the cafeteria as a skateboarder reveals he plays Cello, a mathlete professes her love for hip-hop dancing, and starting power-forward Zeke; well, he bakes. In the end, both the nerds and the basketball players come together to help Troy and Gabriela pursue their dreams. Since they’ve been dating for several months, you would expect the two to seal their triumphs with a kiss. Alas, since this is a Disney Channel movie, you have to wait until half-way through HSM 2 when they’ve been dating for around seven months for the first kiss. If you love high school drama, horrible jokes, and decent mid-range jump shots: High School Musical is the DCOM for you.