Updated: Jun 24, 2020
Directed by #ElissaDown
For fans of School of Rock and the Nativity series comes Netflix's Feel the Beat. Australian filmmaker Elissa Down’s family comedy is another entry in a familiar cycle, where a down-and-outer becomes teacher to a hopeless bunch of misfits, finding redemption and fresh purpose along the way. Yes, it's certainly nothing new, yet always a story ripe for retelling.
When April Dibrina (Sofia Carson) is axed from Broadway by a resentful producer, she returns home beleaguered to the town of New Hope. A chance meeting with her one-time dance teacher (Donna Lynne Champlin) leads to April reluctantly coaching the latest group of young dancers at her old school, in a bid to catch of the eye of a big-name judge (Rex Lee) who is appearing at a forthcoming dance competition.
The gorgeous Carson is perfect in her role; her journey from icy impatience to selfless star is predictable but effective. Michael Armbruster and Shawn Ku’s script, characters and scenarios are clichéd but Carson lends a touch of quality to proceedings, both on and off the dance-floor. The girls themselves are likeable and believable and, whilst the characters in the film may lack memorability, Down’s ensemble cast (adult and child) are game and bring a healthy dose of charm and heart to the production.
The script is glitchy in places. April’s Broadway humiliation goes viral yet none of her New Hope neighbours know about it. Her impromptu dance-off on the streets outside Lee’s office fails to ring true. Young Sarah (Eva Hauge) dropping a fake breast, slipped in to impress her crush, just feels weird. Other moments in the story are more amusing; a rudely indifferent April chastises the Broadway dreams of her new class, who (in a later scene) find themselves hilariously out-of-place against a bunch of considerably more suggestive young dancers. The device of April having to perform with her pupils in the “Teacher Feature” is clearly contrived, yet it works well within the narrative of April’s journey. First, when she performs, she pushes her pupils aside, grabbing the spotlight as a selfish dominatrix; later, she becomes angelic, harmonising with the kids in a heavenly symphonic performance. Like the film overall, it’s a predictable but pleasing progression through familiar terrain.
Feel The Beat pretty much follows the beats of School of Rock. Down’s film treads close enough on the toes of the much-loved Jack Black comedy that it could almost pass as a remake (just think School of Dance!). Yet, for all the clichés, Feel The Beat is hard to dislike; it’s charmingly cute, feel-good, family fun.