A Broadway bust heads home to Wisconsin, where coaching a little girls’ dance squad in a big national competition just might be her ticket back to New York in “Feel the Beat,” a family-friendly comedy that has its moments.
True, many of those moments are cheesy. But let’s stay upbeat and positive, seeing how few TV-G things Netflix serves up for kids. They lean towards edgier kiddie fare, for the most part. And this? I laughed a few times, was touched here and tjere.
Ballerina petite Sofia Carson (of Disney’s “Descendants” TV movies) stars as April, the small town girl who’s made it to New York, even if she hasn’t quite “made it IN” New York. We meet her just as that dream crashes. One sharp-elbowed New Yorker fighting for a taxi in the rain episode ends her career. She thinks.
Back to Wisconsin it is then, where divorced dad (Enrico Colantoni of “Just Shoot Me” and “Veronica Mars”) is a shoulder to pout on.
April’s little “accident” with a New York dance impresario went viral. But when anybody asks why she’s back, it’s “because I got sick,” Dad says, saving her pride.
The old beau she dumped, via text, when New York beckoned? That would be Nick (Wolfgang Novogratz), and not the Chris Pratt look-alike (Dennis Andres) who coaches the high school football team and has kids in dance class.
Cheese is churned, get it?
April finds herself doing a Q & A for the kiddies for her old teacher, Miss Barb’s (Donna Lynn Champlin, a “hoot” as they say in Cheesehead Country) dance studio.
“NEVER make a mistake in front of anyone important” is her bitter advice to girls with dancing dreams.
And that’s when the realizes that this Big Nationwide “DanceDanceDanceDance” contest the tiny tykes are entered in will be judged by the only choreographer in New York — Welly Wong (Rex Lee) — who might give her a chance to restart her career.
Sure, she’ll take over coaching. Sure, she’d be delighted to choreograph and star in a Teacher and Her Students dance as part of it. No prob.
Funny stuff — April transforms into a drill sergeant when she takes over from soft-hearted Miss Barb.
“GROW a pair! Are you dancers, or ‘little GIRLS?'”
Uh oh. “Drop and give me TWENTY.”
Arrogant Coach April won’t learn their names — it’s “Eyeglasses” and “Pigtails” and “Fingers,” keep in time!
Wait, “Fingers?” She calls Zuzu (Shaylee Mansfield) that because — get this — she’s DEAF. The other girls learned sign language to get her on the team, and mean old teacher calls her FINGERS. Man. Tough.
There’s amusement in their first competition, where over-sexualized other teams of tweens are twerking up the stage.
As the contests go on, there’s a very funny bit where the jock dads of competing teams get into a trash-talk tizzy in the parking lot — using nothing but dance jargon.
“YOUR girls wouldn’t know a triple time step if OUR girls were dancing it on their sad little faces!”
And the Gay to the Rescue here is old New York pal Deco (Brandon Kyle Goodman, fun).
But the rekindled “love story” is a non-starter, the endless contest levels are tedious, the contrived obstacles to the teacher sticking with the girls and getting them to The Big Game obvious and annoying.
It’s paint-by-numbers screenwriting, and even that wouldn’t be awful if the picture was quicker, lighter on its feet. It’s an 80 minute comedy in a 110 minute package.
Still, an inoffensive (mostly) movie for the whole family, especially ones with little girls? A pretty rare thing.
Close enough will do when your only alternatives are cartoons and the fresh-mouthed brats at Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel.
MPAA Rating: TV-G
Cast: Sofia Carson, Enrico Colantoni, Donna Lynne Champlin, Wolfgang Novogratz, Rex Lee and Brandon Kyle Goodman .
Credits: Directed by Elissa Dawn, script by Michael Armbruster, Shawn Ku. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:47