Disney Channel — which mined teen actors Hilary Duff (Lizzie McGuire) and Christy Carlson Romano (Even Stevens) for last month's Cadet Kelly
— again engages in such multipurposing, to great effect, in Tru Confessions.
This time out, Even Stevens
co-star Shia LeBoeuf gets to test his dramatic chops as a developmentally disabled child.
He's the focus of the TV movie, but not its star — that title goes to Clara Bryant as Trudy "Tru" Walker, your above-average teen with above-average problems.
Tru and LaBeouf's Eddie are twins, you see. While Tru grapples with the standard angst – pining over the dreamy junior and dealing with a mom she sees as clueless, as well as a largely absent dad —her biggest problem is Eddie. She's outgrowing her beloved twin, and has trouble talking about it.
Tru deals with life by hiding behind a camera and filming everything. She fantasizes about a sitcom existence, where a perfectly coiffed, pearl necklace-wearing mom heaps nothing but praise upon her. When Tru learns about a local TV contest that gives fledgling producers an opportunity to make a 30-minute segment for air, she's certain she's found her future.
She struggles to find a topic, though, until she focuses the film on Eddie. Her first, far-too-clinical try is a bore. But at the urging of an online confidant (actually her mother, who's found that's the only way she can speak to her daughter), Tru decides to "show her true self and be rewarded."
Her film — which shows the love and pain she feels over her brother — is the winner, both in life and in the contest. It shows her father that he's not in the picture, and he vows to change. It tells her classmates what she goes through. And it even shows Tru — who finally really sees her mother — how much pain she causes.
The film deftly makes its many points in a way that's sentimental, but not maudlin. Bryant tends toward the way-to-perky side of teen-movie heroines, but her emotional scenes are on the mark.
And LaBeouf is restrained as Eddie, resisting the temptation to let manufactured tics and vocalizations define his character.
Director Paul Hoen (Disney Channel film Luck of the Irish; Sabrina, the Teenage Witch) does a fine job of building characters around Tru and Eddie and is restrained using sitcom fantasy cut-aways, wisely dropping them altogether when the film becomes serious.
debuts April 5 at 8 p.m. (EST and PST).