Last week, I talked to you about a Disney channel star making her transition into a more serious role. This week, we are talking about a film and a performance that teeters in this weird intersection between Hallmark movie and Disney Channel original movie. Netflix’s Feel The Beat is obviously not a Disney Channel movie but is definitely adjacent to one with its lead Sofia Carson straight from one of Disney’s most popular franchises.
Carson, who is best known by kids as Evie in Disney Channel’s Descendants, plays a disgraced Broadway dancer, forced to move back home when an accident she is involved in is caught on viral video. If Carson was going for the one-note, mean, and self-possessed artist, then she absolutely nailed it. Her character April is completely hung up on what she lost. She doesn’t see the good in her home town, including the opportunity to teach at her former teacher’s dance studio. After much convincing from her dad (Enrico Colantoni) and Miss Barb (Donna Lynne Champlin), she decides to help a bunch of young dancers win a competition with the incentive that it could restart her Broadway career.
Feel The Beat is not supposed to be this groundbreaking artistic marvel. It’s a girl-focused dance movie. You know how this works. There’s the old beau who she still feels a spark with, there’s the struggling dancers with abandonment and family issues of their own. The adults around her in her Wisconsin town are slightly on the buffoonish side, which is a shame considering two of the supporting actors. Champlin, best known for her spectacular performance in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, is completely underused here and gives the film any heart it would have. Enrico Colantoni also isn’t given much to do here either. Best known as Veronica’s dad in Veronica Mars, Colantoni just seems to provide a few jokes and not much else.
The script and story are pretty a strung together list of tropes and archetypes, but that could work if the lead gave a compelling performance. Carson doesn’t give April much nuance, her change at the end seemingly sudden. If there was a little bit of charm or even humility, the viewing experience would be more bearable.
While the film doesn’t have much to offer in terms of story or originality, it succeeds in visible diversity. Though the cast is predominately white or white-passing, there is some color woven throughout. While the film definitely leans into over the top gay stereotypes with Brandon Kyle Goodman’s best friend character, other characters don’t fall into archetypal roles as easily. Multiple dancers on the team are not the thin, tall dancer type that we see in other dance centered films. There’s even a deaf dancer who communicates with the rest of the girls through sign language. Feel The Beat is targeted for a preteen female audience, probably ages 6-11. Seeing someone with the same skin color as you, with the same body type as you, with the same disability as you in a movie, is powerful. That alone brings the film some merit.
Feel The Beat is on Netflix now. Watch the trailer below.