Netflix UK film review: Work It
Matthew Turner | On 28, Aug 2020
Director: Laura Terruso
Cast: Sabrina Carpenter, Liza Koshy, Keiynan Lonsdale, Michelle Buteau, Jordan Fisher
Watch Work It online in the UK: Netflix UK
Produced by Alicia Keys and directed by Laura Terruso, Netflix’s latest teen movie takes a stab at the dance competition genre, with largely successful results. Disney Channel singer-star Sabrina Carpenter plays Quinn Ackerman, an over-achieving high school student who’s desperate to get into Duke University (“the Harvard of the South”). However, during her interview, she accidentally lets the admissions officer (Michelle Buteau) believe that she’s on the Thunderbirds, her high school’s successful dance team, who are about to compete in an upcoming contest.
Having already made an enemy of Thunderbirds leader Julliard (Keiynan Lonsdale), Quinn sets about forming her own ragtag team of dancers for the competition, headed by her best friend Jas (YouTuber Liza Koshy). There’s just one small problem: Quinn can’t dance.
Carpenter is funny and charming as Quinn, generating both an appealing comic rapport with Koshy and catch-your-breath chemistry with co-star Jordan Fisher (as the injured former dancer who reluctantly agrees to be their choreographer). Koshy also proves a real all rounder, getting off a series of great one-liners and delivering some impressive dance moves, and there’s strong support from both Fisher and Lonsdale, who’s clearly enjoying himself as the team’s haughty rival.
Crucially for a film like this, all the actors can actually dance and all the dancers can actually act. Accordingly, the film is packed full of great dance sequences (courtesy of Pitch Perfect choreographer Aakomon Jones), the highlight of which is an extremely cool scene involving a group of disabled dancers freestyling in a park. That scene would be amazing enough on its own, but the film cleverly contrives to give it a subtly charged layer of emotion that pushes it into greatness.
The dance competition genre practically demands clichés, so the question is whether the script manages to freshen up all the scenes you’ve seen countless times before. Happily, for the most part, the answer is yes, thanks to offbeat moments, witty lines (“Our terrible dancing just killed a man”) and fun dance moves.
That’s not to say the film is without flaws. For one thing, the film’s relatively economical runtime means the other members of Quinn’s dance team get short shrift, with one of them in particular – Nathaniel Scarlette’s DJ Tapes – barely having any lines. That lack of characterisation in the supporting cast seems like an odd decision in a film that’s meant to be about a team of misfits pulling together.
That minor issue aside, this is undoubtedly one of Netflix’s better teen movies and a worthy addition to the dance competition genre, thanks to Terruso’s energetic direction, a funny script and a trio of charming performances from Carpenter, Koshy and Fisher.
Work It is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.