Feel the Beat (2020)

“Dance is music made visible.” George Balanchine.

Feel the Beat is a shameless pre-teen dance competition musical of the kind that Pitch Perfect recently produced with the same formula for voice. And countless other competitions in film history.

What saves it from being the most saccharine, unimaginative film of the year is its unabashed sincerity that these adolescents–one chubby, one deaf, one poor, one boy, et. al.– could survive a competition by sheer will and the guidance of a gifted dance instructor. In other words, aspiration far outstrips talent.

Director Elissa Down and her writers craft an almost believable story of a small Wisconsin town that welcomes back a talented but coldly remote dancer from Broadway, April (Sofia Carson), to guide the kids, not so much to victory but to a belief in hard work to achieve a goal, regardless of whether or not the goal is achieved.

Life lessons in the rough road to success are what these musical fantasies are all about, and Feel the Beat gives plenty of routines to show how rigorous the competition is in the heartland. Although some of the adults act goofy, and not all the kids are talented, the spirit is what counts.

In fact, this musical has nothing new to add to the genre except its seeming sincerity about the complicated nature of growing up. Commitment is the word that regularly crops up from April’s abandoning the town to go to NYC to boyfriend Nick’s (Wolfgang Novogratz) staying in town for a noble cause. The film doesn’t ram home the pop culture staples of dedication to family and home; it just shows the virtues of staying true to the ones you love.

Feel the Beat misses most of the beats of great film making, but it wins an award for trying. That’s even what the film is about.

Review by jdesando

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