Feel The Beat is a family film that follows a Broadway hopeful as she desperately climbs to the top, but a little fumble forces her to return home. We’ve seen a ton of films like this with pompous over-confident young women who find themselves in situations that humble them. This one is no different, but there is just enough to make this an enjoyable and pleasant watch.
Feel the Beat follows April (Sofia Carson), a dancer with big dreams of making it on Broadway. Elissa Down directed the movie based on a script by Michael Armbruster and Shawn Ku. The story is very simplistic, a by-the-numbers retelling of the same fall from grace story line we’ve seen before. In this iteration, April is saddled with a group of adorable little dancers from her hometown, and they happen to be April’s ticket to getting back in the game. Filling out the ensemble is Donna Lynne Champlin who plays the sympathetic motherly dancer teacher and Wolfgang Novogratz who plays April’s ex, Nick, who still lives in town.
From the jump the film is very predictable, and funnily enough is extremely hard to accept when you know that Toronto is moonlighting as New York City. The movie isn’t overly concerned with believably or nuance, rather it bluntly hits you over the head with the plot beats as April redeems herself from being a selfish perfectionist to a caring and tolerable perfectionist. Also, we are made to believe that she is from Wisconsin, and that is hard to believe.
The kids are the right amount of precocious, and if the stars align many will be faces you will regularly see, especially Lidya Jewett who is given one of the deeper emotional beats of the film. However, this movie is truly a showcase for Sofia Carson and how well she rocks her dancer chic outfits. From the styling of her hair and makeup to the clothes on her back, Carson is most certainly the centrepiece of this film. Oddly, the film doesn’t utilise her dance background as much, instead opting for a dance stunt double that you can clearly see. If anything, that is where the movie should have excelled at the most, it instead relies too much on Carson’s natural beauty and her acting abilities, and not enough developing the idea that April is such a great dancer, which is the basis of the film.
It should be noted that Carson is at the edge of superstardom. A Disney alum who— like her predecessor Zendaya— has the looks and talent to catapult her to the top, despite never having mounted her own Disney Channel show. I’d argue that Selena Gomez paved the way for Carson to really shine. They are eerily similar from the cadence of their voice, their overall look, they are close in age, but Carson has that extra something. That charm and charisma coupled with actual talent that just makes you want to watch her do just about anything. She is capable of playing someone who is rather unsympathetic, but conveys the emotional growth and depth of the character. She is a consummate professional, truly giving more than this film really deserves.
Another standout in Feel the Beat is Wolfgang Novogratz, who is clearly out to collect Noah Centineo’s lunch money, because this guy is throwing a thousand miles an hour. He is climbing up the ranks to claim a spot in the ‘white boy of the month’ pantheon starting off as a side character in Sierra Burgess is a Loser (which ironically stars Noah Centineo as the central heartthrob), to playing “that dumb jock boyfriend” in The Half of It, to now starring in Feel the Beat where he is playing an overall good guy. There are many sweet moments to showcase just how selfless and giving Nick is for his family and community which contrasts April’s distant and cold attitude towards, well, everyone.
However, there is one thing that this film really could have done without and that is tokenisation. With most of these “coming-of-age” or comedic narratives there are a couple of tropes pertaining to the central characters friend group, which in most cases is an attempt at diversifying the ensemble. In this film, the trope that proves to be the fatal mistake is having April’s sole friend be not only a token Black character (one of three), but is also the flamboyant gay character. Brandon Kyle Goodman is very charismatic, and has a dazzling smile. Seriously, it is an excellent smile, but his role is too jarring and is at odds with the rest of the film. It would have made more sense if April was a loner (due to her less than appealing behaviour). It just goes to show that diversity for diversity’s sake doesn’t always work.
Needless to say, Feel the Beat won’t shake things up. It is a very cute film about a young woman coming to terms with herself and changing the lives of these little girls who need a strong and reliable role model. In that regard, it does succeed, because everyone in the cast really does give it their all, sincerity is not lost on anyone. However, the most notably thing will be the key players and how this impacts there careers, and as this is a highly accessible Netflix film. Expect Carson, Jewett, Novogratz, and even Goodman to get a significant boost as they all put in solid enough performances that will garner some attention.
If you are looking for a movie that won’t work your mind too hard, has a group of adorable kids, that girl who wore a blue wig in those Disney Channel movies, and will leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling than this might be the movie for you. If you are a fan of Sofia Carson, well, Feel the Beat is very much for you.
Feel the Beat is available to stream on Netflix
by Ferdosa Abdi
Ferdosa (she/her) is a lifetime student of cinema. Three of her current favourite films are: Addams Family Values, Cinderella (2015), and Emma. (2020). On Twitter you can see her support women-led cinema, her ongoing love/hate relationship with Disney, her totally healthy obsession with Eva Green, and her great admiration for Guillermo del Toro.