I don’t know what it is about dance-competition movies that I find so thrilling. They’re deeply predictable, the stakes could not be lower, and they’re almost unerringly corny, but whenever I watch one I feel totally exhilarated. And this is precisely how I felt when I watched Work It, Netflix’s new dance movie, which dropped today.
The story follows try-hard AP-student Quinn (Sabrina Carpenter) whose only goal in life is to get into her late father’s alma mater, Duke. She accidentally leads the admissions officer into thinking she’s on her high school’s award-winning dance team, the Thunderbirds, captained by Isaiah, played by Keiynan Lonsdale (all you need to know about him is that he makes everyone call him “Juilliard”). The admissions officer is impressed and leaves Quinn with a promise to see her at “Work It,” the big dance competition.
Of course, she bombs her Thunderbirds audition but decides to start her own dance team out of a rag-tag band of untrained dancers. Things are looking hopeless until Quinn convinces the legendary Jake Taylor (Jordan Fisher) — a dancer whose promising career was cut short because of an injury — to be their choreographer. As the team improves, Quinn starts thinking less about college and more about her love of dancing and Jake Taylor’s dreamy smile.
Speaking of which — the film does well to showcase the formidable talents of Fisher, one of my beloved crushes. Unlike his last movie, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: P.S. I Still Love You, Work It gives Fisher full reign to be the dashing Renaissance man he is: We get him playing the piano, dancing, singing a little bit, and spending plenty of time being charming and charismatic.
Is Work It anything new? Absolutely not. It will remind you of the following: Bring It On, High School Musical, Pitch Perfect, Step Up, and other movies about try-hards competing for something. What is (mostly) new, though, is that the majority of the lead cast are people of color. What it Work It does have in common with its predecessors is that it, too, is a fantastic movie: “This was honestly the best movie I have ever watched,” Google reviewer Paris Barnes wrote; “Well I admit I am no good at dancing, but watching Quinn makes me wanna shake my bodyyyy,” Seth Bernice added. Both of these sentiments encompass how I feel about this movie.
In short, Work It is the kind of lighthearted, inspiring Disney fare that makes you want to get really good at whatever the movie is about: surfing, team sports, baking, whatever. It’s fun to watch and afterward you say, “Damn, that was so cool. I’ve gotta learn how to do that.” Of course, you never do. But rewatching it over and over again is close enough.