Work It (2020) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): A mild underdog movie with predictable movements

Netflix film “Work It” is a mildly enjoyable underdog movie with predictable movements which will not surprise you much especially if you are familiar with its genre territory. As a high school comedy movie about dance competition, it is fairly competent in case of mandatory dance scenes, but it is so typical and plain in other main aspects including story and characters that I sometimes found myself coolly observing it from the distance instead of fully enjoying it.

The story mainly revolves around Quinn Ackerman (Sabrina Carpenter), a plucky high school student who has studied and worked very hard for being allowed to study in Duke University. Although she seems to be able to go to more prestigious colleges such as Yale or Harvard, she has sincerely aspired to go to Duke University just because it is where her dear father, who died several years ago, studied, and her mother fully supports her decision without any reservation.

However, it turns out that she has a small but serious problem when she has an interview at Duke University. During the interview, Quinn is told that she is not so distinctive compared to many other applicants who are as exemplary in grades and extra-curricular activities as her, so she comes to blurt out that she is a member of her high school dance team, which has incidentally won three times in row at the Work It Dance competition.

However, there is one thing Quinn did not reveal during the interview: dancing is actually not something which interests her a lot. As a matter of fact, she was in charge of the lighting for her high school dance team before recently getting kicked out the team because of an unfortunate technical mistake during its latest dance performance in the school.

Because she will really have to participate in the Work It Dance Competition as she said during the interview, Quinn enlists her best friend Jasmine (Liza Koshy) for help, and Jasmine, who is incidentally one of the key members of their high school dance team, tries to help Quinn as much as she can. Not so surprisingly, Quinn only comes to embarrass herself during the following tryout for the dance team, and she is quickly dismissed by Julliard (Keiynan Lonsdale), the cocky captain of the dance team.

While quite disappointed and depressed by the poor result of her efforts, Quinn comes to think of an alternative which may work even though there is not much chance from the beginning. All she has to do is making another dance team with other students, and Jasmine agrees to join her dance team after Julliard refuses to let her shine a bit more in their performance. Along with Jasmine, Quinn manages to assemble several different students with each own considerable potential, and now they need a choreographer who is good enough to improve their dance team a lot.

And that guy is Jake Taylor (Jordan Fisher), a handsome lad who was once famous for his exceptional dancing skills but then walked away from his spotlight due to an unlucky physical injury. Now merely working as a dance teacher for kids, he is not so particularly interested in being a coach/choreographer for Quinn’s dance team, but, of course, he eventually agrees to join her dance team, and we soon see how the team gets improved bit by bit.

While quite predictable in many aspects, the screenplay by Alison Peck throws some nice funny moments for good laughs. I chuckled as watching how Quinn and her dance team colleagues’ first trial leads to an unexpectedly disastrous result, and I was also amused a bit by a running gag involved with a certain supporting character who always attracts Jasmine’s attention for an understandable reason.

In case of the dance scenes in the film, director Laura Terruso and her crew members do not disappoint us at all. Always accompanied with fun and exciting music, the dance movements look as smooth and skillful as we can expect from high school dancers, and the movie also makes sure that we can really sense that Quinn and her team colleagues get improved along the story.

During the last act, the movie begins to stumble as being more predictable than before. Besides a blatantly contrived conflict between Quinn and her team members, there is also a clichéd moment as she comes to clash with her mother right before what is supposed to be her big moment, and it is not much of a spoiler to tell you that her mother eventually comes to change her mind while everything turns out to be pretty well for Quinn and everyone in the story.

Anyway, the main cast members in the film bring some charm and personality to their archetype characters. While fairly engaging in her likable performance, Sarah Carpenter clicks well with Jordan Fisher during their intimate scenes, and the other main cast members including Liza Koshy and Keiynan Lonsdale are solid in their respective parts.

Overall, “Work It” will probably satisfy you enough if you simply want to kill your spare time, but I have to remind you that there are better high school movies from Netflix such as “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” (2018) and “The Half of It” (2020). I will not deny that I was entertained to some degree during my viewing, but it will probably be evaporated from my mind within several days, and that will be all.

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