A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Feel the Beat will appeal largely to young dancers. Sofia Carson from the Descendants movies stars as April, a selfish dance instructor who learns kindness and patience from her misfit students as she prepares them for a competition. Language is infrequent but includes "ass," "butt," "suck," "wiener," and "crap." "S--t" appears in a song lyric (easily missed unless you're using captions). Dance teams cheat by putting a 10-year-old in an 8-year-old-only category. A woman falls off a stage, and viewers later learn she broke her leg and wrist. Dance routines performed by young girls are sexualized; they twerk while wearing Vegas-inspired outfits.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
April (Sofia Carson) has been dancing since she was a kid back in Wisconsin. As FEEL THE BEAT begins, the now 20-something aspiring dance professional faces eviction from her New York City apartment. Late for an audition she hopes will lead to a job and enough money to pay the rent, she rushes through the rain and steals a cab from an appalled woman. That same woman, a producer, arrives at the audition late, furious over the cab incident, and assures April that she'll never work in this town again. April, unapologetic but broke, heads home to small-town Wisconsin where her first dance teacher, the warm and welcoming Barb (Donna Lynne Champlin), suggests April teach a class. April turns up her nose at the offer until she learns the kids are heading to a competition being judged by a powerful New York producer who will see April during a teacher-led number on the program. April is critical, dismissive, and impatient with the kids, seemingly oblivious to the way she's hurting and discouraging them. She also hurt her ex-boyfriend Nick (Wolfgang Novogratz), who she dismissed by text before she left town to seek fame and fortune in New York. Slowly, working with the kids and receiving an infusion of small-town neighborliness grounds April and forces her to connect with people.
Is it any good?
This movie takes a while to get going, but once it does, it's at turns touching, sweet, funny, and fun. Feel the Beat works especially well as a movie that parents can enjoy with kids. Director Elissa Down struggles in the early scenes, relying on cliches, improbabilities, and oversimplifications to establish the grumpy, self absorbed character who leaves friends and family behind to pursue her ambition. But once April starts to learn to make room for others in her life, the movie overcomes its initial shortcomings and proceeds to a finale showcasing likable characters, including several kids, played by Lydia Jewett, Eva Hauge, and Justin Caruso Allen, who teach a clueless adult what life is all about. Donna Lynne Champlin is endearing as the understanding Barb and Wolfgang Novogratz is appealing as the typecast hunk.
A few nice touches add to the likability. The group uses sign language so a deaf dance student feels included. A little boy quietly hanging out during dance class turns out to be a terrific dancer. Barb makes casseroles for anyone in town going through a challenge. All of this adds up to an overall foundation of goodness that infects even the most resistant cynic. Watch the closing credits so you don't miss a street party showing off the hidden skills of the movie's supposedly non-dancing characters. Note that at the head of the traffic jam caused by all the dancing, there is someone in the first blocked cab whose presence underscores April's progress.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how everyone can overcome challenges. How does Feel the Beat show the difference between enjoying activities you love to do and enjoying activities for which you have talent?
Even if you're not great at something, why is it fun to work hard enough to see improvement? How does the movie illustrate this?
Teachers often say they learn as much from their students as the students learn from them. What do you think April learns from her students?
What other dance movies have you seen? How does this one compare?
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