Girls Rock!

Girls Rock! And Palace will kick your ass.
Nicole Weingart/Shadow Distribution

Palace—age 7—unleashes a blood-curdling scream Poly Styrene would be proud of, then smiles demurely. So it goes at the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls, a femme-only affair where grrl luminaries like Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein usher young women through an intensive five-day basic training: The kids meet, form a hasty band, write a song, and bash it out on the camp's closing-night concert. The program's agenda is weighty and worthy: promoting assertiveness (self-defense is a mandatory class), and combating the "diabolical new threat" of teen-pop. Several amusing montages mash up archival footage and alarming stats—between the ages of nine and 15, the percentage of girls who say they're happy with themselves drops from 60 to 29. But while the camp is all about liberation, the film hews to a predictable doc template and comes off as a drag. Co-directors Arne Johnson and Shane King introduce several of the camp's most troubled girls (unlike 2005's Rock School, which smartly zoomed in on its music school's most charismatic figure—the ex-rocker teacher—the focus here is squarely on the kids), and then show their path from trite conflict to ultimate catharsis. If the girls come up with some colorfully off-the-wall stuff—"How do you tune a taco?" one howls—this dreary doc does little more than underline the talking points.

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