Before Miley, Demi, Vanessa and Selena, there was Galleria, Chanel, Aqua and Dorinda. The Cheetah Girls is a 2000s explosion of lip gloss, proto-feminism and cat fights but is also immortalised as the film which preceded the trend of TV network teen musicals (and the movie which spawned today’s infighting and Instagram Live fights between former members).
The Cheetah Girls is the story of four friends in Manhattan and their journey to be discovered as a girl-group. Yes, the hallmarks of a kids’ movie are all there – the plot is predictable, there’s a shoehorned love interest and there is a laughable climax with police bugging out over a dog as opposed to public safety. But with charming styling and cinematography akin to Sex and the City and with the film’s themes, Cheetah Girls is a layperson exploration of exploitation of dreams in showbiz. Cheetah Girls hints at the dark pressures of music and film, in the vein of Sunset Boulevard, the anime Nana and The Get Down.
It’s a surprising and welcome twist that the film was produced by Whitney Houston. The Cheetah Girls is cheeky but with a deeper message stamped all over it, much like the interviews of its late producer. Overall, the film rips the aspirational idol singer façade and brings it back down to what can truly drive great music, friendship, representation and empowerment. And in today’s reality show competition music scene, this just might be an apt moral.