Tara (Debby Ryan) is a quiet kid at her high school in always-sunny Seattle (har!). She freezes up when her teachers call on her, and she has a huge crush on a boy named Gavin (Adam DiMarco), who not only doesn’t know she exists, but he is dating the school’s beauty queen, Stacy (Merritt Patterson). Such is the dramatic life of a high school junior!
But Tara has a secret that she hasn’t even told her BFF Audrey (Sarena Parmar)… she is Radio Rebel! Apparently every kid at Tara’s high school has been listening to the live online broadcast of this mystery DJ who not only speaks from the heart, but from the perspective of disgruntled teens everywhere, all while playing the rock n’ roll that causes the kids to gyrate their hips and jump up and down. Online, Tara is confident, even when her “hip” stepdad, a hot radio DJ, get’s Radio Rebel’s show on the hottest radio station in Seattle. But in person, she is struggling to hold a conversation with her newly interested boy crush. When the school principal threatens to expel Radio Rebel once her identity is revealed, well, Tara is in a bit of a quandary! Can you be the most popular girl in school even when no one knows who you are?
Of course Radio Rebel reeks of the much edgier (well it was at the time) Christian Slater film from 1990 called Pump Up the Volume. But where getting your voice illegally on the airwaves is actually quite a clever stunt, pretty much anyone can do a “live” (or more likely not) online show. The context doesn’t quite fit as well, but Radio Rebel isn’t here to make kids think—it is to make kids feel good. This is the type of movie where a good curling iron can give a girl confidence to walk into a school dance. It’s where a high school band can get their song played on a popular commercial radio station (yeah), and where a bitchy popular girl is revealed to have confidence issues (isn’t that the stuff we actually find out at the 20th reunion?).
Radio Rebel is hardly rebellious. In fact, there is nary a pair of saggy pants, thongs peeking above hot pants, or swearing or nudity. It is like High School Musical (but admittedly without the potential star wattage of that cast). All in all, Radio Rebel is a completely safe babysitter for a tween.