Disney Channel blasts out another original movie with Zapped, wherein a teenage girl discovers her cell phone has the power to control boys. Chaos ensues as things go inevitably wrong, and soon young Zoey Stevens (Zendaya) learns a valuable lesson about family and not mind controlling vast amounts of people.
Overall, the characters are charming and well cast. Zendaya seems far more comfortable reacting to all the weird things going on around her than participating in them herself. She spends so much of her interaction with gross boy antics stretching out her muscles making disgusted faces, it starts to become hilarious. You can tell she’s just having fun as everyone acts crazy all around her. Chenelle Peloso is one of those perfect talky best friend characters who wears a hat that’s in almost every teen movie (yet I’ve never seen one in the wild). Spencer Boldman is far too cool for school, someone who already learned everything, so spends his day playing the faux rebel. Special performance bonus go to Emilia McCarthy as the villainess Taylor Dean, who just hates that darn Zoey Stevens for stealing her man and her dance reputation and basically everything. McCarthy spends the whole film chewing the scenery being fun to hate and it’s awesome. She’s joined by sidekick Yuki (Louriza Tronco), Taylor’s toady who thinks she’s her BFF, and Taylor constantly slams her for saying ridiculous things (sometimes deservedly, sometimes not!)
Young Zoey Stevens (Zendaya) grew up with it just being her and her mom for so long that she barely remembers anything different (the reference to her father is he once gave her a castle music box, it’s implied he passed on). She lives most of her life on her cell phone, using apps for everything. We open with her mother’s wedding to her new husband, Ted Thompson, who comes complete with three rowdy boys and a dog (Adam, Zach, Ben, and the dog Humphrey). Things hit a full Brady Bunch as the boys repeatedly cause huge messes, starting with splattering Zoey while she’s giving her maid of honor speech.
Things don’t get better at her new school, as the boys there are all pre-divided up into cliques: the gamers, the skateboarders, the stinky guys, the shirtless muscleheads. Special consideration given to a guy known as The Tripp (Jedidiah Goodacre), who refers to himself in the third person in between farting on people. The only people not insane is her new BFF for life, Rachel Todds (Chenelle Peloso), and the single non-disgusting boy in the school, with the neo-leftist name Jackson Kale (Spencer Boldman). Think James Dean crossed with Edward the vampire, with Jackson Kale wearing his sunglasses inside, in the dark while watching a film strip. Of course he’s the love interest, calling Zoey “Smart Phone” as he quickly picks up on her habit.
Even Zoey’s love of dance takes a hit. Things veer into Mean Girls territory, with Emilia McCarthy’s Taylor Dean channeling Karen Smith as the captain of the dance squad. And former girlfriend of Jackson Kale, thus she hates Zoey and keeps her off the varsity squad. Zoey is stuck with the rejects (and Rachel Todds, of course!) and her life is the pits.
She downloads an app to try to train the family dog Humphrey, because at least she can then control that one small thing. But thanks to young boy chaos, the phone gets tossed around, electrocuted, and dumped in dog food. Magically, it’s fine the next morning, but the dog control app no longer seems to work. Except, now every boy and man responds to her voice commands. At first things go slow, with Zoey testing her powers out. But soon she’s making sweeping behavior in a huge chunk of the males in her life, and that’s when all heck breaks loose!
As we all know from these films, when you alter people for your own gain, things eventually go horribly and hilariously wrong. Zapped is no different, as the good-intended actions begin to backfire or escalate. Making her father be quiet, so his loud drill instructor-style wake-up calls give her more rest leaves him unable to do his job as a basketball coach effectively. Having her older brother Adam focus causes him to stare intently at things for hours, her middle brother Zach has switched from making disgusting food to preparing ridiculously fancy meals, and youngest brother Ben is now obsessively cleaning the entire house over and over again. At school turf wars break out as newly purposed cliques argue about space for their new found interests in personal grooming or yoga.
Overall, the family friendly Disney origin keeps things from getting too disgusting and disturbing (despite the fart bombs). While that keeps things from going all Ruby Sparks, there is still that threat lying beneath the surface of what if the wrong person got a hold of the phone, especially in the final act. Zoey undergoes ethical dilemma of not wanting to use the phone on Jackson Kale, but does use it on others to affect her date that’s not a date with Jackson.
The overarching message of the majority of Zapped is that boys/guys are disgusting, and is punctuated with them doing non-stop disgusting and rude things. The female characters continually discuss that boys are gross and cause almost all the problems in the world. Things don’t change until Zoey actually talks to guys like her brother Adam, finding out they have their own complicated issues going on. In fact, her deciding factor to eliminate the phone’s influence is so her brother can impress a basketball scout, something he can’t do if he and the team he’s on are dysfunctional. Weirdly, despite Zoey’s big speech about how her and her mom are so close, her mom is barely in the film.
This love of family proves to be key, because it’s part of the logic behind diffusing the phone app. But more importantly, Zoey has learned to love her family for who they are, despite it being radically different from all she knew before. They are still her family now, and family sticks together and accepts each other. Zoey learns to put down the phone and live her life. Which is what you should, too, when you aren’t watching Disney Channel! (and reading this site, of course!)
A fun flick for the kids, and manages to be entirely not annoying at all for the adults. Despite the focus on high school clicks, everyone is Disney Channel upper middle class complete with huge house and well funded high school that can devote time to dance team arguments. I don’t expect Zapped to even begin to bother to expound on those points, I just feel it’s my duty to bring it up again and again. Zapped may be ridiculdumb Disney fluff, but it’s entertaining ridiculdumb Disney fluff.
Rated 7/10 (an app!, another app!, far too many apps!, music box, why satellite beats cable, too much hugs, everything needs an “-o-meter” at the end!)
Please give feedback below!