Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Brendan Fraser, Rosario Dawson
Directed by: Ron Krauss (“Amexica”)
Written by: Ron Krauss (“Amexica”)

No one is blaming actress Vanessa Hudgens for trying to separate herself from the fluffy roles that made her famous during her more formative years. She, along with fellow Disney princess Selena Gomez, was able to put some space between her and her tween fan base last year when she starred as a scantily clad criminal in “Spring Breakers.” It’s a routine other actors have tried before, all with varying success. Think Macaulay Culkin in “The Good Son” or Dakota Fanning in “Hide and Seek.” Even Molly Ringwald went to the dark side in “Malicious” after playing a slew of goody-two-shoe characters in the 80s.

While Hudgens has been working on her transformation for only a couple of years (she was also in the unwatchable “Sucker Punch” and “Machete Kills” where she tried some “edgier” roles), she still hasn’t found a character written well enough for anyone to take real notice. Unfortunately, the same can be said of her starring role in “Gimme Shelter.” In the film she plays Agnes “Apple” Bailey, a pregnant teenager who leaves her abusive mother (Rosario Dawson) in search of her estranged father (Brendan Fraser). When things don’t go as planned on account of her bad attitude, Apple finds sanctuary in group home for pregnant teens with the help of a caring priest (James Earl Jones) and a shelter caretaker (Ann Dowd) who guide her.

It’ll take more than a choppy haircut, baggy clothes, a neck tattoo and other unrecognizable features for audiences to believe Hudgens can lose herself in a role like this. She does her best with what she is given, but with as script as inauthentic and blatantly heavy handed as the one director/writer Ron Krauss offers up, Hudgens has nowhere to go emotionally. In fact, the only real change we see in her character is when more makeup is applied to her face after each scene in the third act to give some kind of false impression of resurgence and self-confidence.

There’s nothing in Apple’s life that should lead audiences to even imagine she is going to be alright. Are we to believe the girls she spends such little time with in this facility have done enough to help her see the error in her ways? Is Krauss trying to say that since God has her back, nothing bad can happen to her? The fact that Krauss is masking Apple’s personality with a host of weak relationships she creates during this pivotal time in her life makes her journey feel all the less affecting. Without Dawson mugging for the camera and Fraser emoting some ridiculous facial expressions, “Gimme Shelter” would be an empty vessel.

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