March 8, 2002 – The Disney Channel Original Movie Cadet Kelly Premieres
“Hey, I have always known there are some stories that have to be told, but I never realized my memoirs would be one of them.”
On March 8, 2002, the Disney Channel Original Movie Cadet Kelly premiered. This was the second Disney Channel Original Movie filmed in Canada, and the first to be repeated on ABC’s Wonderful World of Disney. The film was written by Gail Parent and Michael Walsh, and directed by Larry Shaw. It starred Hilary Duff as Kelly, Christy Carlson Romano as Jennifer Stone, and Gary Cole as General Joe Maxwell.
The film begins in New York City, at the New York Middle School for Arts. Student Kelly Collins is a free-spirited teenager who is working on a video-documentary about her family. Her father is a photographer who is travels around the world, and Kelly lives with her mother, as her parents are divorced. Her mother is dating a Brigadier General named Joe Maxwell, and they announce to Kelly that they plan to get married. Kelly is supportive of the engagement, although she feels that Joe is a little too stiff for their family. They soon drop another bombshell on Kelly: they’ll be leaving New York City to move upstate for Joe’s new job as the Commandant of a military school. Kelly will be sent to the military school as a student, and she balks at the news. Although she refuses to go, she is soon enrolled in the George Washington Military Academy.
Kelly arrives at the barracks, amid stares from the other cadets
Kelly soon makes a friend named Carla, and hears about Captain Stone from the other members of her dorm. Stone is “the meanest sixteen-year-old on the planet,” she hears, and Carla warns her to keep to regulation, or she’ll get in trouble. Kelly does not have a good first meeting with Stone, but doesn’t back down. Kelly hates military school from the get-go, and vows to change the school to be a more friendly place. Her first day begins as a disaster, as she doesn’t understand the lingo of military school. Carla offers to teach her everything she needs to know. Kelly also sees Cadet Major Brad Rigby and develops a quick crush on him, but Carla warns her that he belongs to Stone. Kelly then blocks Stone’s attempt to ask Brad to the dance on Friday, making more of an enemy of Stone. Back at the dorm, everyone is showing off their dresses for the dance, except Carla, who didn’t bring anything to wear. Kelly helps Carla get a dress, and admits that the Commandant is her stepfather. Carla says she should tell Stone this information, but Kelly refuses, as Stone is her own battle.
During the obstacle course on the day of the dance, Kelly has problems getting through and is berated by Stone. She remains stuck at the top of one obstacle, as she is terrified of heights, but finally makes it down. Once she is done, Stone makes her repeat the course, which would make Kelly miss the dance. It begins to rain while Kelly does the course again with Stone’s assistant, Gloria. Kelly and Gloria bond during the course, with Gloria giving her advice as to how to get through the course. Kelly then finishes and makes a mad dash to the dance, although she slips down a muddy hill and lands into Stone, covering her dress with mud. Everyone applauds Kelly’s antics, save for Stone, who runs off furiously. She is then called to Joe’s office to be lectured about her performance the first week of school. Kelly accidentally insults Joe, and he lays down the law on her. He sends her home, and she is shocked by his attitude. When she gets home, she attempts to tell her mom that she wishes to leave the military school, but changes her mind when her mother gives her more surprising news: Kelly’s mom is going to have a baby, and surprised her with an art kit. Kelly then decides that she will not only stay in school, but she’ll help Joe become more fatherly.
Stone takes out all of her aggression on Kelly’s blanket, tearing it in front of her
Back at the dorms, Stone retaliates against Kelly’s antics by stealing her blanket and tearing it up. Kelly tries not to cry, but decides to take revenge instead. Taking her new art kit, she enters Stone’s room while she sleeps and paints her hair to match the tie-dye design of the blanket. The cadets laugh the next morning, and Stone is mortified. She then hands Kelly a court martial summons, and it is later revealed that Joe will be the one to review the verdict and dole out the punishment. Joe thinks that Kelly and her antics are going to blow his career. Kelly overhears this, and is crushed. When her mother admits that maybe they shouldn’t have come to the academy, Kelly tearfully says that they never even asked her. At the court martial, they find Kelly guilty, and Joe gives her the punishment of being the equipment manager of the drill team. She starts off by polishing the drill team’s shoes, and has a chance encounter with Brad, who teaches her how to shine shoes, and then tells her that she makes him laugh. Reinvigorated, she continues to work hard at polishing. The team hopes to win Regionals this year, as they haven’t done well since their third place win in the 1970s. Kelly develops a respect for the drill team. Carla offers to help Kelly with the polishing, and the two become closer after Carla admits that her home life isn’t that great. While polishing, Kelly starts playing around with one of the rifles, quickly picking up on what to do.
At the school’s practice meet against a rival high school, Kelly impresses Joe with her quick thinking as the equipment manager. Kelly is even more impressed with the performances of the drill teams, but notices that Joe seems to look disappointed if the school’s performance, as it lacks something. After hearing Brad’s speech at the end about how they need creativity, Kelly tries to cheer him up with a random routine, and he asks her to do it again. Afterwards, she gives Gloria a friendship bracelet as an offering in exchange for coaching so Kelly can join the drill team. Kelly then auditions for the drill team after extensive training with Gloria, and Stone doesn’t want Kelly anywhere near the team. Before Kelly can check the list to see if she made the team, she is called to Joe’s office, where she finds out from him that he made it, and how proud he is of her. She then gives him a lecture on how he needs to soften up for the sake of the baby, and he allows her to help him. She then arrives at the drill team’s locker room and finds her uniform waiting for her. As she walks around campus, she starts following Stone as Stone practices routines for drill team. As she imitates Stone, the two gradually end up working on a routine together. Brad and Gloria notice the two of them having their fun and applaud their efforts, thinking they could work together for the regional competition. Later, Kelly tries to be friendly with Stone, which Stone begrudgingly accepts.”
Kelly enjoys family dinner with Joe, her mother, and her father
Kelly is excited for her father to stop by for dinner, and Joe notices how Kelly and her father interact, particularly when her father’s schedule allows him to be there for her drill team competition. At the competition site, Kelly’s best friend from New York City appears, and when Kelly calls her “my best and truest friend,” an upset Carla falls behind the rest of the group, not without Joe noticing. The competition starts with the inspection phase. Although they pass the inspection phase, Kelly is upset that her father hasn’t shown up yet. When her phone goes off, the rest of the team is angry, as if it had gone off during competition, they would have been disqualified. Joe finds Kelly as she’s panicking, and she tells him that she thinks something bad has happened to her father. He offers to let her go find him, but she wants to stay with the team as she knows how important this competition is. Joe tells her that she has a duty to her father, and they run off to find her father without telling the team. Kelly and Joe find her father on the rock face, and Joe calls for help while Kelly decides to rappel to meet him. Meanwhile, the team continues the competition without Kelly. After Kelly runs out of rope, she decides to drop the rope to reach the ledge where her dad is lying unconscious. She manages to keep him company as he wakes until the rescue team arrives, and Joe gives her a hug, but also lets her know that she can have two best friends, referencing the incident with Carla earlier.
Back at the competition, the team is down by five points, and Kelly arrives just in time for the last event with Stone. Kelly apologizes to Carla, and the two are friends again. Kelly and Stone compete in the unarmed competition event, complete with ribbon dancing. The duo are met with applause, and it is announced that George Washington Military Academy wins second place, losing the gold by only one point. Although Kelly feels responsible, Stone tells her that without her, they wouldn’t have even made it this far. Kelly says next year they’ll get gold, but Stone tells her there won’t be a next year, as she is moving to Europe, but hopes Kelly will become a platoon leader, so she can teach a maggot just like her, and the two share a hug.