Musical Chairs

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Musical Chairs Movie Poster Image
Injured dancer learns new moves in inspiring, trite tale.
  • PG-13
  • 2012
  • 101 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Strong message about being happy no matter what your circumstances. After a tragic accident, Mia is at first despondent, but eventually she realizes that she can either give in to despair or choose to pursue happiness.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Armando is completely devoted to Mia, and his love and support helps motivate her to not give in to self-pity. And Mia learns that life goes on, whether you can walk or not, and that she can choose to either wallow in grief or seek fulfillment.


People shove each other around during arguments. A woman slaps a man after he touches her suggestively. Mia's injuries are the result of a car crash.


Some tender kissing and a few discussions about whether paralyzed men are capable of having sex. A transsexual discusses her artificial breasts, nicknamed Thelma and Louise.


Swearing includes infrequent use of "f--k," "p---y," and "piss," as well as "jerk," "hell," and "bitch."


Some Apple products on screen.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One discussion about selling marijuana. Some smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Musical Chairs is an inspiring drama about a ballroom dancer who must pick up the pieces of her life after a car crash leaves her in a wheelchair. At first she refuses to even think that she'll have much of a life, but a fellow dancer's devotion helps her realize that she can live -- and love. There's some smoking and a discussion about selling pot, plus some moderate swearing (including infrequent use of "f--k" and "p---y"), as well as some flirting and kissing. A transsexual character discusses her artificial breasts.

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What's the story?

Mia (Leah Pipes) is training for a national ballroom competition until a tragic accident leaves her in a wheelchair. Crushed and despondent, she wallows in self-pity, convinced that her life might as well be over; and her dance partner and boyfriend suddenly is too busy to stop by to visit. Enter Armando (E.J. Bonilla), the custodian at the dance studio who's been nursing a secret crush on Mia. Armando helps her realize that life goes on, if only she'll choose to participate. And the key to motivating Mia is the upcoming ballroom dance competition for people in wheelchairs.

Is it any good?

MUSICAL CHAIRS is uplifting, but so very formulaic. Bonilla has charisma, and he can certainly move, but every step he takes seems lifted from the standard-issue overcoming-adversity script. Supporting cast of quirky underdogs? Check. Second-act complication that threatens to derail both romance and Mia's path to recovery? Check. Training montage? Yep. And a dramatic finale where the main characters, against all odds, manage to shine. What do you think?

Still, fans of dance movies and/or uplifting tales -- especially those on the younger side who aren't already jaded about this kind of story -- may find it an entertaining escape.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Mia's attitude. Do you think her reaction to her injury seems realistic? How would you feel if you ended up in a wheelchair? Do you think you might act like her?

  • Does Musical Chairs follow a standard "overcoming adversity" formula? Can you think of any films that are structured similarly to this one? Why is this kind of story appealing?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dancing

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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