Released: 19th June
Seen: 23rd September
Not long ago, I reviewed the Netflix original film Work It which was about a young girl trying to put together a dance troupe in order to get into college. Dance films are a very rare breed because they tend to require actors who can pull off the vastly different skills of acting and dancing. The problem with dance films is that it takes something kind of special to break out into the mainstream, films like Dirty Dancing, Hairspray and Step Up managed to infuse dancing with a plot that people latched onto and have kept in the cultural landscape for years… something tells me Feel the Beat isn’t going to be one of those movies, but it’s fine.
Feel the Beat follows a very familiar plotline where a character, in this case April (Sofia Carson) is trying to make it big on Broadway but she makes a big mistake that leads to her moving back home to a small town in Wisconsin. While she’s back home she runs into an old flame and an old dance teacher who begs her to teach the local dance class and through teaching that dance class April learns that maybe she doesn’t need Broadway as much as she needs those girls.
It’s a story we’ve heard before a lot of times, and it’s almost clinical how Feel the Beat goes over the major beats that make up this kind of film. You can almost set your watch to this thing, and that’d be fine if they were hanging something interesting off these story beats. That’s kind of the magic trick to a good film that uses a familiar formula, you gotta have something special to make it work. Funny characters, a legendary actor, an interesting setting, social commentary, SOMETHING has to make this more than just the bare bones.
To be fair there are a few little details that Feel the Beat has that make it more than just the bare bones plot. For starters there’s the existence of Donna Lynne Champlin who is basically a fountain of pure joy that cannot be contained. Honestly, she should be in a lot more things because she’s obscenely talented and Hollywood is sleeping on an obvious icon. There’s also a deaf character played by a deaf actress, and they don’t make out like that’s holding her back. It’s just there as another part of the movie, casual as could be. Indeed all the kid actors are quite good and make it really easy to root for them to win the national dance championships.
Feel the Beat is definitely over cluttered though, to the point where most of the time it feels like they forgot the romance subplot between April and Nick (Wolfgang Novogratz) which is really just a few scenes, almost like the film knew that we’ve seen so many films like this that the second we’re told “Oh these two used to be a thing” that they barely need to show them interacting in order for us to go ‘aww’ when they get together in the end. Even the actual dance numbers aren’t that impressive, they’re mostly just cute cos it’s a bunch of 5 year olds dancing out of time. It’s very much by the numbers, no shock deviation is going to happen here because… well, why bother? It’s a little dance movie that’s probably going to be watched late at night after two hours of scrolling through the Netflix menu looking for something, nothing more than that.
Feel the Beat isn’t awful or great, it’s just fine. Some nice acting, some good dancing, occasional references to Broadway musicals and it all ends with people dancing in the street around coincidentally empty Taxis. It’s fine, if you’re looking for something to watch that might provide a bit of light entertainment this will probably kind of do the job, maybe.