August seems to be “dance movie” month for me. A couple of weeks ago I discussed a movie about a bunch of misfit kids who danced in competitions. This week the movie “Work It” is about a bunch of misfit high school kids who strive to be in a major dance competition. Misfits unite! The film stars Sabrina Carpenter (“The Hate U Give”) as Quinn Ackerman, a senior in high school who has always had the dream to attend Duke University. Quinn seems a shoo in for the school until she meets with an admissions counselor who advises her there are plenty of applications similar to hers and she needs to set herself apart. When the admissions person recognizes her high school due to its award winning dance team, Quinn lies and says she is part of the team. Of course lies lead to trouble, and Quinn rushes back to school in order to convince her best friend Jasmine (Liza Koshy) to make her part of The Thunderbirds dance team. Jassmine eventually agrees to teach her bestie some basic dance moves for the audition. Quinn’s audition is before Thunderbirds star Isaiah “Julliard” Pembroke (Keiynan Lonsdale), who is the leader and star of the dance team, who strives to attend The Juilliard School in New York City, thus his nickname. As one might expect, the audition is a disaster, leaving Quinn devastated. As setbacks and disappointments often lead to, a plan is devised by Quinn to form her own dance team at the school. This is where the misfits come into play. After Quinn convences Jasmine to lead her new team, the two audition and go after school mates they feel can result in a quality dance team. The duo manage to recruit a varied group with specialties in everything from soccer to karate. The misfit teams are the immediate disaster one would expect, but after training and practice thanks to help from former dance star Jake Tayor (Jordan Fisher), the group finally gels and are ready for their first performance at the nursing home where Quinn volunteers. While the location is not exactly what one would hope for a debut, the group manages to deliver a sparkling performance and are ready to take on the overconfident Julliard and his troupe. During all the dancing and practicing, a romance develops between Quinn and Jake, and no sooner than you can say “Dirty Dancing” the two are dancing romantically and very effectively outside among graffitti adorned concrete. The aforementioned moment is certainly a showstopper, and is a perfect clip for promoting the film. As is the case with most of the films in the young adult genre, Quinn experiences a “self discovery” moment where she realizes her lifelong desire may not be what will make her happy. The film also features a side flirtation between Jasmine and a local mattress salesman (don’t ask). The other misfit dancers have no real character development and could have easily been part of the cast of the “Glee” television series. They are on hand to simply provide quippy dialogue and to support Quinn. Of course the showdown between the two dance teams takes place at a major competition, which Quinn nearly misses due to objections from her Mom. The showdown is fun, and I will not reveal which team wins, but you can probably guess the outcome on your own. The film features plenty of wonderful dancing, and the cast really seems to be having fun. There is a particularly entertaining “dance off” between Jasmine and Julliard in the high school courtyard that never happens in reality, but is expected in these films. All the actors did a wonderful job in the film, with Lonsdale conveying how over-the-top effective he can be in chewing scenery and nearly stealing the film. The movie conveys the often presented message of a group of misfits coming together to form a ragtag family and showing the world they can be winners. While certainly not groundbreaking, the film’s message may be exactly what we need in these trying times. “Work It” is fun and entertaining and sometimes that’s enough. Now streaming on Netflix. (Rated TV-14)
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