Shallow, feel-good entertainment for teens and those young at heart (almost) in the Disney tradition: Netflix is trying its hand at the dance film WORK IT in the realms of its streaming competitor. We reveal whether this is successful in our review of a production that has recently surprisingly entered the upper echelons of the Netflix top 10.
The crew is rehearsing for the big performance.
Sounds like a Disney film from an earlier Disney creative phase (mouse films have become more and more pompous in recent decades, TV films have become more and more shrill), and it also stars a Disney star – namely Carson’s “The Night of Crazy Adventures ” co-star Sabrina Carpenter. “Work It” would hardly have ended up on Disney+ like that – the word “sexting” appears once in the dialogue and in a dance scene an excited (covered) member plays a comedic and relevant role. This would probably have been reformulated at Disney or ended up as a tame Touchstone Pictures film in the 80s to 90s. But the effect remains the same: Netflix subscribers of a certain age range and with a certain taste in films are pleasantly reminded of films from their childhood and youth by “Work It” (produced by Alicia Keys!). And their children, younger siblings, nieces, nephews, godchildren or whatever can hear the opportunity: “Oh! My! God! I watched stuff like that all the time when I was your age, isn’t that great?”
But from a more sober perspective, “super” would be too euphoric. The whole thing is still charming: screenwriter Alison Peck carefully updates the tried-and-tested formula for the 2020s, instead of either creating a completely out-of-time film with young people without smartphones or, alternatively, crampedly packing current contemporary color everywhere, and director Laura Terruso stages “Work “It” without any notable visual flair, but with a feeling for the chemistry between the ensemble members. And, very important: She films the dance scenes in such a way that they have a cinematic drive, but the choreographies can be enjoyed in peace – instead of letting her editor Andrew Marcus chop up the dance passages. The soundtrack, meanwhile, is full of chart-toppers that are old enough for the core target group of the film’s role models to rejoice nostalgically, but a few newer numbers are also strategically cleverly woven in as a refresher.
“Screenwriter Alison Peck carefully updates a long-standing formula for the 2020s, instead of either creating a completely out-of-time film with young people without smartphones or, alternatively, crampedly packing current contemporary color everywhere.”
Carpenter plays the gray buffalo mouse who discovers dancing with a likeable ease that helps to put a friendly smile on the quixotic premise (no college in the US would reject her character for the reasons invented in the film). And the dance pros Jordan Fisher (as trainer of our dance failure) and Liza Koshy (as best friend and dance role model) not only have impressive moves, but also play solidly enough that you could believe they are more than just dancers – and, hey, that means something in the dance film genre.
Conclusion: “Work It” by no means reinvents the wheel, but rather brings back a model that has fallen out of fashion with charm and looseness – “Work It” is family-friendly, somewhat “roughened” feel-good cinema about agile people. There’s nothing to say against that!
“Work It” is available on the streaming service Netflix.