“Work It” is fun dance-your-heart-out comedy presented by Netflix. It takes a shop-worn story about how to get into the college of your dreams and gives it a hip-hop, be-bop makeover.
The story hangs together ok, but it would not be worth a thing if the personalities aren’t lively and the dancing is crazy good. Think of “High School Musical” meets “Dance Dance Revolution”, and you might get the idea. The underdogs are scrappy and full of energy, like a pre-school ballet recital powered by Red Bull. Maybe the skillz ain’t there, but the spirit is a-crackin’…
Quinn Ackerman (Sabrina Carpenter) is a no-nonsense high school student aiming for Duke University. Her best friend is Jas (Liza Koshy) and they have made a great team for a long time. Jas is with the school’s award-winning dance team called the Thunderbirds. The Bird have teken the top place the Work It Dance Competition for years. They are led by Juilliard (Keiynan Lonsdale), who is prima donna beyond compare. But Quinn has been to a counselor who tells her that a fully-developed applicant would have other activities – like the dance team – to get into college.
Juilliard has no intention of letting Quinn into the Birds, especially given that she does have two left feet. Her GPA is in the top ranking, but her dance skills are really rank. Quinn decides to convince Jas to leave the Birds and help her create a new team from scratch. Jas thinks her friend is more than a little wacked, but she gets too much grief from Juilliard that she says yes to the new team. But who can they find to make the dream come alive?
Getting people from the school to make up the new dance squad is done, and they just need to know how to move the groove. There was a fine dancer from prior years named Jake Taylor (Jordan Fisher) who one led the Birds and was an up-and-coming superstar. But he was injured and lost all interest in dance. Quinn finds him and convinces him to help out the new squad with their moves and choreography. He first says no, but he is at last smitten by Quinn’s charm — or maybe he wants to see the train wreck up close. The squad looks for places to practice, such as dance studios for kids, a mattress store, and a retirement home.
But as Quinn’s dance skills improve, her grades start to slide. The squad is removed from the kid’s dance studio, where Jake loses his job. Jake no longer wants any part in the new squad – or any part of Quinn. Quinn spirals out and loses her will to get good grades and keep the dance squad going. Jas get frustrated with the whole thing, and she goes back to Birds to get in Juilliard’s good graces once more. But the only star player on the Bird’s team is him. The band is going to break up, just before the final concert (opps! wrong movie!)…
But will it go on like that? Can Quinn “Get Her Head in the Game”, so to speak? Can Jas be the Top Dog in the Birds? Or does Juilliard going to make sure that she is going to stay a mutt? Does Jake have enough to overcome the scary prospect of being a leader and winner again – like he was in the past? Boy, if you think that the movie is over just 75 minutes in, and then you have not laced up your best dance shoes, buster! There is plenty more heart and wicked moves to be put on display, and the curtain is nowhere near falling…
“Work It” is an infectious movie with a lot of heart of charm. It reels you in with a commonplace story, and never veers off the path of previous ‘big competition’ movies. Think about “Step Up”, “Bring It ON”, “Breakin'” and even “Dirty Dancing”. Just because there were some standard tropes in the movie does not make it enjoyable to watch it (sometimes, again and again). So here to, the music is poppin’ and dance moves are slick. The chemistry between the actors is really good.
Sabrina Carpenter is a just wistful face waiting for her big break. She is the proverbial ‘ugly ducking’ (non-dancer) who turns into a credible star by the end. She works well with Liza Koshy as her best friend, and she is also believable interacting with Jordan Fisher. The whole ‘dance’ team concept is fun, getting the misfits and the tag-alongs to join in and be part of a team shooting for the top. The story just fun and bouncy, and gives you the feel of something that could have been made by Disney. That is actually a pretty high mark to hit…
“Work It” can take your tired old ideas and get them infused, and enthused, with some top-line action and dancing, and some good chemistry between the stars.
Streaming on Netflix on August 7
Find it here: www.netflix.com/workit
Directed by: Laura Terruso
Written by: Alison Peck
Starring: Sabrina Carpenter, Liza Koshy, Keiynan Lonsdale, Jordan Fisher
Music by: Germaine Franco
Cinematography by: Rogier Stoffers
Length: 93 minutes
Genre: Musical Dance Comedy