Off-Season Reviews: the Even Stevens Movie (2003)

[One month, my birfday, and one little infection of the sinuses have pretty much derailed the Off-Season Reviews for May. Apologies to all my three and a half readers. Email me, and I’ll mail you I.O.U. cards redeemable at your other favorite blog.]

In honor of National ShenaniTims Day, I decided to watch one of my favorite films, the Disney classic, the Even Stevens Movie. In college, the Even Stevens show was affectionately called by my roommate as “that show where that kid (Louis Stevens [Shia Labeouf]) screams all the time.” As if that isn’t enough to love it, here it is stretched out into made for TV Disney feature. (It’s worth noting that also while in college, I started a tawdry love affair with all made for TV Disney movies – Brink!, Smart House, Johnny Tsunami; you name ’em, I love ’em.

(All movies, I might add, that I also discussed in detail for my final “Film Criticism” project in college. You can stuff your Fellini hipster, I’ve got a holographic Katey Sagal here!)

The Even Stevens Movie is the Disney Channel’s loving send-off to their stellar hit show cast, as Shia would soon (bizarrely) graduate to Hollywood blockbuster status (Disturbia, Transformers 1-3), Ren (Christy Carlson Romano) would grow too old to pretend she was a freshman in high school, and Beans (Steven Anthony Lawrence) would (tragically) reascend to Heaven. The fact that God sent one of his angels to us for just two seasons and one movie, should be enough.

The movie was, according to the commentary, Disney’s way of saying “thank you” to the cast: they got to film on a tropical island for a week, Ren finally found a love interest, and Louis makes inappropriate “sit next to Papa” jokes. Essentially the series finale to end all series finales.

For those wondering, yes, Louis does spend nearly the entire movie screaming. In fact, it’s pretty much 90 minutes of intra-reality TV show warfare punctuated by Louis’ screams. Miles McDermott (Tim Meadows!) is a reality TV producer who was cast aside his protegee, Lance LeBow (Dave Coulier!!), and wants revenge. So he concocts the ultimate reality show, one where the isolation of Survivor meets the eating weird stuff segments of FEAR Factor (giant roasted slugs), all set to split the family apart. All while showing how conniving and plotted these shows are behind the scenes. Which, while certainly not breaking news, is still suitably deep for a Disney film. (Brink!, from what I recall, was about how totally radbadical inline skating is, and chocolate. Not vanilla, chocolate.)

I mean, c’mon! The coach’s name is “Tugnut!” Friggin’ Tugnut (Jim Wise)! How they beat Strangers With Candy to that one, not to mention sneaking it past Disney censors, is beyond me.

Steve Stevens (Tom Virtue): “That’s my little girl up there.”

Donnie Stevens (Nick Spano): “I know Dad, that’s my sister.”

Then there’s the greatest set in recent memory: Roller Cakes. That’s right, a 50s diner where the waitresses wear roller-skates, while serving pancakes. Which is a pretty accurate representation of how one could combine my other two favorite subjects: roller derby and Waffle Houses. (Sorry, IHOP, but you suck.)

Ren: “You dump me in a pancake house and wonder if I’m upset!?! Ug!”

I’d reprint Louis’ entire “ultra-lounge-o-matic super chair” scene (“Don’t call ‘her’ a ‘thing!’), but I don’t want to scatter your computer screen with its brilliance. Let’s just say it vibrates “like a thousand tiny fingers working all the right parts,” and feeds Louis a hotdog. Yes, a hotdog. In the most fellating way possible (for Disney), Louis even kisses its robotic hand as it pulls away; whispering a soft “thank you.”

In all seriousness, is might be the greatest movie of all time. One of Its only low points is the piped in music; which comes from Aaron Carter and the Baha Men, as well as a cast rendition of “Dream Vacation.” I know it was Disney’s habit of making all their leading “ladies” singers (Miley Cyrus, Hilary Duff), but Christy Romano really doesn’t have a voice for it. Or, she has a voice as “for it,” as any of the aforementioned, but just came to the table to late.

(Oops, turns out her voice was good enough for the stage!)

Mark Mothersbaugh provides the background music (along with Bruce Berman), so it’s not a total loss. You can just imagine DEVO’s “Penetration in the Centerfold” playing throughout while you watch. Worked for me.

The other low point? Shia LaBeouf. Not so much the acting, as Shia still screams like the maniac that won him a Daytime Emmy and got him nominated for the Young Artist Award numerous times. But on the commentary track, he comes off as a total ass. Recorded (presumably) after he had hit big-screen fame, he fashions himself a comedic genius rather than a one (high-pitched) trick pony. Sure, working with Harrison Ford (in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) is an opportunity no one would turn down. But at least acknowledge that it was a shit film. A paycheck’s is a paycheck, but even Samuel L. Jackson has the decency to admit that his work in Snakes on a Plane was solely because he’ll take any role offered to him.

Louis: “Beans, hold me.” [Cries]


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