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‘Cadet Kelly’ Hits Family Target

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Disney Channel has drafted two of its regular performers for fish-out-of-water duty at 8 tonight in the fun original movie “Cadet Kelly.”

Hilary Duff (Disney’s “Lizzie McGuire”) stars as Kelly, a ditzy Manhattan 14-year-old whose loosey-goosey life is turned on its ear when her divorced mom (Linda Kash of “Best in Show”) marries a retired military man (“The Brady Bunch Movie’s” Gary Cole). Before long, the new family is uprooted to upstate New York, where Dad is taking over as commandant of the century-old military academy that he attended as a boy. And he has decided that if it was good enough for him, it will be great for Kelly.

With echoes of “Private Benjamin” and even “Gomer Pyle,” Kelly is thrust into an environment that couldn’t be more alien to her than if she had just stepped onto the moon. Kelly is soon coping with crack-of-dawn wake-up calls, icky uniforms and muddy obstacle courses, and she does it with a relentlessly cheery attitude that at times nearly crosses into irritating. Sort of a junior Meg Ryan at her crinkliest.

But Kelly’s biggest problem is Capt. Jennifer Stone (Christy Carlson Romano of the Disney Channel’s “Even Stevens”), who is described by one cadet as “the meanest 16-year-old in America.” They clash at every turn, and the fact that they have designs on the same soldier only makes for more trouble.

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But this is a Disney movie, and soon Kelly and Jennifer find common ground, Dad begins to lighten up, and everyone learns a crucial life lesson from everyone else.

“Cadet Kelly” isn’t 21-gun-salute material, but as a glossy kids’ entertainment, it manages to put across a positive message and hit its target.


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