A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Julie and the Phantoms is about a musically gifted teen (Madison Reyes) who finds herself in a unique situation. Conceived by producer Kenny Ortega (of Descendants and High School Musical fame), the story centers on a main character who's coping with a recent loss and finds surprising comfort in the company of three teenage ghosts. The show is heartfelt, heartwarming, funny, emotionally honest, and very well delivered by its talented cast. Julie's experiences illustrate the importance of self-expression and self-acceptance, and the people in her life inspire her to stay true to her passions. The series deals honestly with emotional awareness and deals with concepts like sexual identity and faith in matter-of-fact ways. Fans of the show likely will seek out the original music that's performed by the band, but that small marketing tie-in is a minor consideration in this wholesome, endearing series with a strong female lead.
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What's the story?
In JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS, it's nearly a year after her mother's death, and 15-year-old Julie (Madison Reyes) still struggles to reignite her passion for music, a love that she shared with her songwriter mom. Unfortunately, that means she loses her spot in her school's prestigious music program, which is a crushing blow to her and to her best friend and fellow program enrollee, Flynn (Jadah Marie). When fate delivers to her the ghosts of three musicians whose untimely food poisoning deaths ended their anticipated rise to fame 25 years ago, Luke (Charlie Gillespie), Reggie (Jeremy Shada), and Alex (Owen Joyner) help inspire Julie to recapture her love for music and regain the confidence to perform. In so doing, they get to revisit their own aspirations, as they become visible to the rest of the world when they're playing music with her.
Is it any good?
The remarkable talent of acclaimed producer Kenny Ortega is hard to eclipse, but here it's managed by the entirety of the cast of this unassuming but spectacular series. It starts with Reyes, whose emotional connection to her title role is obvious right off the bat and who captivates on-screen from then on. Enter her unlikely new trio of friends -- three quippy teens who are not surprised to learn they're ghosts but are shocked to discover they've been in limbo for a quarter of a century -- with their very genuine interpersonal relationships and their obvious care for Julie. Round that out with her compassionate father, supportive teachers, and devoted best friend, and Ortega's masterful vision for this series becomes obvious.
Beyond these rich characterizations, Julie and the Phantoms offers viewers something even more likely to reel them in time and again: the impressive musical talent of its frontmen and woman, who actually perform the songs in the show. Julie and the guys have a great rapport on-screen that's only enhanced when they sing and play together. This spells big and far-reaching success for the show, not surprising given Ortega's track record with productions that meld drama, humor, and exceptional original scores.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about where Julie finds inspiration and support in Julie and the Phantoms. How do her people rally around her when she needs it? What help is a strong support system in difficult times? In what ways can you fill that role for someone else?
How does Julie's willingness to be honest emotionally help her cope with difficult situations in healthy ways? How does she demonstrate courage and perseverance in these ways? Who are positive role models of similar qualities in your life?
Does Julie and the Phantoms do an effective job promoting the band's music? Is that its intent? How are our preferences and opinions shaped by what we see on the screen? Can this be a good thing?
- Premiere date: September 10, 2020
- Cast: Madison Reyes, Owen Joyner, Charlie Gillespie
- Network: Netflix
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, High School, Music and Sing-Along
- Character strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- TV rating: TV-G
- Available on: Streaming
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: October 23, 2020
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