When Kelly Collins's mother marries a retired general, they move, giving Kelly a surprise—she has to go to George Washington Military Academy. She wants to assert her individuality by wearing accessories and carrying around her old blanket, but keeps on getting punished for that by Cadet Captain Stone. Eventually, she can't take it anymore and takes revenge on her. Kelly gets court martialed and forced to clean the gear of the school's rifle team, leading to acceptance of her dad and of the school.
Tropes associated with Cadet Kelly are:
- Artistic License Military: Had Jennifer and Kelly been in the military for real, they would have both been discharged for what they did to each other instead. While it may be justified for how they are in military school, kids in military schools are held to (albeit watered down) military standards.
- Amicable Exes: Kelly's birth father and mother are alright with one another, but it's a little obvious why they divorced.
- The Bully: Cadet Captain Stone towards Kelly.
- Character Development: Kelly and her stepfather Joe give each other signs of respect and affection the other wanted, Kelly saluting Joe and Joe giving her a fatherly hug.
- Disappeared Dad: Averted - surprisingly for a Disney Movie. Kelly's father is a big-time nature buff and explorer, thus he can't exactly take care of Kelly.
- Hard-Work Montage: When Kelly is learning how to twirl the rifle to audition for her school's rifle team
- Military Brat: Kelly becomes a military brat because her mother married an ex general turned commandant of military school. Jennifer is a much more clear cut example, revealing at the end of the movie that she has to move away because her father got reassigned.
- Military School
- Order Versus Chaos: Kelly just wants to express her creativity and individuality, while Jennifer just wants to enforce the rules. Ultimately, Kelly finds a way to be creative through her school's rifle team.
- Reality Ensues:
- The free-spirited Kelly from an artsy alternative learning school is sent to Military School. She doesn't fit in, and this causes some flashes with her new stepfather.
- Kelly pulls a prank on Stone by painting her hair. Stone immediately finds out it was Kelly since Kelly is the only cadet that she antagonizes more than the others.
- Revenge: Because Cadet Captain Stone destroyed Kelly's blanket, Kelly gets back at her by painting her hair while she sleeps.
- Serious Business: The Drill Team. As anyone can tell you, this is actually Truth in Television - It's considered to be a big honour to be in the Drill team or the Colour Guard.
- Wicked Step Father: Surprisingly averted with General Joe Maxwell, Kelly's stepfather. He is strict and authoritative, but mostly because he's a military general in charge of a military school and is trying to learn how to be a good father. It causes some strain, but in the end he and Kelly do warm up and compromise with each other.