Story: After the death of her mother, Hanna (Madi Burton) moves with her father Jon (Corin Nemec) across the country for a fresh start. Once she starts at her new school, Hanna knows she wants to be part of the cheerleading squad, though competition is fierce and Coach Burke (Vivica A. Fox) has a no nonsense approach to the sport. But she finds some support and guidance from Devan (Johanna Liauw), the assistant coach for the squad, who has a keen mind for cheer performances, as well as the inside track on Burke’s temperament. Although she isn’t supposed to offer private lessons, Devan wants some one on one practice work with Hanna, who she thinks can be a real star, if she can catch up to the others and grasp Burke’s system. But is she just trying to help a student she sees potential in, or does Devan have a darker agenda of her own?
Entertainment Value: I do love the series of “The Wrong…” thrillers from Lifetime and yes, I always hope that Vivica A. Fox will say the name of the movie in an overly dramatic moment. The narrative here hits all the expected beats and lets the obsession flow, so for me, I found The Wrong Cheerleader Coach to be a fun movie. Devan is an interesting character and watching her unravel is quite a treat, especially if you enjoy some manic outbursts and inexplicable behavior. The movie is smart and gives her ample screen time and in truth, she is almost the lead character, though we are pulled to be sympathetic toward Hanna and her dad, of course. The tone is balanced for the most part, with some scenes that can be over the top and others that dial back a little, but I think in general the scales lean toward the wilder side here, even if they don’t often tip into absolute chaos. I think that small amount of restraint will please those who want a more traditional, straight forward mystery/drama, but still appreciate the hits of wackiness Lifetime loves to inject into these thrillers. I had a good time with this one and for fans of Lifetime thrillers, this movie is well recommended.
As I mentioned above, our villain Devan is the main reason The Wrong Cheerleader Coach is so wild and fun, so Johanna Liauw deserves some praise. She brings Devan to life in full dramatic, dysfunctional style and never looks back, no matter how off the rails she goes at times. I think the conversations with the trainer are super weird and even creepy at times, but a great example of how natural Liauw’s villain presence is here. When the material really lets her loose, she ramps up the drama and delivers an unhinged villain that is a true spectacle to watch. I also think she brings across a palpable sense of danger as Devan, which helps the tension ratchet up over time. She is able to make even routine exchanges have an edge of instability, as if we never know what Devan might do and even when we know she’s going to erupt, she manages to surprise us in some outbursts. The cast also includes Tara Reid, Corin Nemec, Madi Burton, and of course, Vivica A. Fox.