Plot: Anna (Savannah May) has just moved to town and that means she’s the new girl at school, not an ideal situation. In order to help her fit in, her mother Candice (Denise Richards) urges her to try out for the cheerleading squad, since the school doesn’t have a dance team she could be part of. She is nervous, but confident her extensive dance experience will give her an edge and that proves to be true, as she is taken in by the squad right off the bat. Katrina (Alexandria DeBerry) is the head cheerleader and the school’s most popular girl, but she is warm to Candice and makes her feel so welcome, despite being new at school. But the kind veneer slowly starts to erode, as Katrina shows a darker side in some initiation rituals and starts to criticize anything less than perfect performances. As Katrina ramps up her cruel tactics, can Anna persevere or can she somehow dethrone the reigning queen before things go too far?
Entertainment Value: This teen melodrama has a lot to offer, with mean girl drama, cheerleading rivalries, concerned moms, and social media panic, so it is a brisk watch that should please fans of the network’s thrillers. I like the parental panic movies from Lifetime and the narrative here dips into that genre at times, with the teen girls going wild and the social media elements, which helps The Secret Lives of Teenagers stand out a little. The movie doesn’t hold back, but it has more believable stakes than most of Lifetime’s thrillers, with the girls taking risks and pushing each other, which leads to some dangerous behavior. This weaves into the parental panic nicely, as it is shown as quite plausible, even when things spiral into over the top melodrama, such as when our bad girl cuts loose. The hazing and initiation elements also work to drive the panic vibe, while the parents seem involved, but also a little distant, though always seemingly there when really needed. The relationship between our good girl and her mom gets some time to develop, but for the most part, the movie focuses on the cheerleaders and the high school drama they’re involved in. I had fun with this one and I’d recommend it to anyone who appreciates Lifetime’s special brand of thrillers.
The presence of Denise Richards is likely to pull in some viewers who might normally seek out Lifetime movies, which is good news, but her role is a smaller one and she doesn’t have a wealth of screen time. At the same time, she plays an important role in the narrative and is by no means a mere cameo, so fans of her work should appreciate her performance here. She plays the concerned mom and while she keeps the melodrama reeled in, she is still fun to watch, I think. Alexandria DeBerry tends to steal the show here, as the Lifetime villains often do, as our resident mean girl. She unleashes some over the top drama and dials up her performance, giving us a capable bad girl with strong screen presence. The material lets her really ramp up the banter and mean spirited moments, so DeBerry rises to meet that and delivers the most memorable role in the movie. Savannah May also holds her own however, as our good girl and while she has less flashy moments perhaps, she puts the character to good use and makes the most of her chances to shine. The cast also includes Josie Davis, Scarlett Cowan, Gracie Marie Bradley, and Bella Shepard.