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Review: Work It (2020)

Is there anything more joyful, more exciting, or more attractive, than great dancing?

It’s a long shot, but I suspect that Netflix may actually be reading my reviews of their movies. Look, I’m not saying that I have any real pull with the biggest streaming service in the world, but it’s very interesting that of the handful of trailers they’ve released recently, I’ve watched a few and legitimately thought, “wow, that actually looks pretty good.” Work It (2020) was advertised as a vibrant, musical, fun, teen comedy, and that’s exactly what this movie delivered. You guys, I actually had a great time watching this movie! It was simultaneously everything I was expecting, and also pleasantly surprising. My biggest takeaway by far though was, “holy fuck, I wish I were able to dance.” Y’know, in a way that people would actually want to see.

Screen Shot 2020-08-13 at 5.39.26 PM
Credit: / Netflix

Work It follows Quinn Ackerman, a high school student whose worked her hardest to get into Duke University. When the admissions officer tells her she needs something to make her standout, Quinn leads her to believe she’s on the school’s award-winning dance team. Now Quinn must get together a ragtag group of dancers to win the upcoming dance competition. The only problem? She has no idea how to dance.

Ok, so this movie basically borrows key elements and plot points from Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004), Pitch Perfect (2012), and Booksmart (2019), then mashes them together to produce this charming teen comedy. By the way, check out my reviews for those last two movies, here and here. Though the premise and characters aren’t the most original, Work It finds a way to hash out familiar storylines while still feeling fresh and fun. The mashup totally works! Thoroughly entertaining, the movie was only 10 minutes in and I was already laughing and declaring out loud how much I was enjoying it. The movie consistently hits you over the head with an inordinate amount of heavy exposition and telling over showing which is never my favourite, but it’s so full of lighthearted, gleeful joy, that I didn’t mind it. Let me tell you, I was flabbergasted that I was having such a good time watching a Netflix original. I was shocked to discover that my positive reaction to this movie continued throughout, mostly thanks to the delightful cast.

Sabrina Carpenter stars as Quinn, a smart move on Netflix’s part. She was hands down the best part of Tall Girl (2019) – check out my review, here – and she shines just as brightly as the lead in her own teen comedy. Sweet, engaging, and a fair actress, Carpenter knows exactly what kind of movie she’s in. She excels in these teen movies and as much as I like seeing her in them, I’m looking forward to the day she evolves past them. I’d be interested to see what she can do in a bigger movie. Also, I don’t know how much of a dancer Carpenter really is, but she’s great at acting like she’s picking up dancing for the first time, and slowly getting better at it. Oh! There’s a part where Quinn earnestly prays to Beyoncé and let me tell you, I’ve never related to a character more. Oh my God! I SCREAMED when I found out her love interest’s name was Jake Taylor…it’s the EXACT SAME name as the love interest in Falling Inn Love (2019)! That should tell you how much effort Netflix puts into the writing of these movies. By the way, check out my review for that movie, here.

Though I’d heard her name plenty of times, I had no context for who Liza Koshy was before this movie. After seeing her play Quinn’s best friend, Jasmine, I’m definitely interested in seeing her in future comedies. The true standout of Work It, Koshy is naturally hilarious. She has the delivery and comedic timing of a veteran comedian, and is a phenomenal dancer to boot. Kieynan Lonsdale, as rival dancer Julliard, turns out just as fabulous a performance. Serving killer dance moves, snarky fierceness, and flawless shade, this is a great role for Lonsdale. I just about died when he said, “she’s probably going to have to get bangs and she doesn’t have the face for that.” I love it! Lonsdale is absolutely doing his best Sharpay Evans impression, albeit the millenial update, and it’s straight up sassy fun. As is the scene-stealing Michelle Buteau! Really, this entire cast of likeable characters is dishing out stone-cold sass and I ate it up.

The rest of the cast is a lovable group of quirky misfits, but it’s made pretty clear that they’re meant to be dancing props and nothing else. I couldn’t tell you a single one of the secondary character’s names. Maybe they’ll get more development in the inevitable sequel? Which, I’m down for just for more incredible dance numbers. The dancing in Work It is AMAZING to watch. The movie clearly makes the dancing the focal point of the movie because anytime something remotely emotional was happening, the movie resolved it quickly and then cut to another dance number.

Work It is a breezy, fast-paced 90 minutes, but if you cut out all the dance numbers and the constant repetition of the plot, it would be a solid 45 minutes. As flashy and funny as Work It is, it’s very surface-level. Which is fine, because it’s straightforward about being a sparkly, light dance movie. However, the cast is so talented and charismatic that I would have liked to see more well-roundedness from them. What I don’t need to see ever again though is that fucking flossing dance. It’s not particularly impressive or funny, and I feel like it was already dated two years ago. Please, Hollywood: Stop having characters floss in movies!

Work It is much better than the average Netflix comedy. It’s enjoyable enough for anyone, but if you’re not in the teen / youth demographic, you’re probably going to end up missing all the young references that fly at you a mile a minute. I loved that I could laugh WITH this movie, and AT it. Again, I had a lot of fun watching it! In fact, it made me want to dance so much, that after watching I literally put on the music that gets me going, and danced like nobody was watching. I had a blast. Should I teach myself how to dance? Hey, apparently all I need is to assemble a group of quirky outcasts and it’ll come naturally to me.

Have you seen Work It?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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