Actress Sabrina Carpenter gets her dance on in her first Netflix film, the coming of age dance flick Work It. Directed by Laura Terruso and written by Alison Peck, Work It tells the story of Quinn Ackerman (Carpenter), an overachieving senior who dreams of attending Duke University. When we meet Quinn, she’s lost her spot as the audio/visual representative for her school’s dance team. After facing a harsh reality from the Duke’s admission officer, that she doesn’t stand out as much as she thought and her GPA isn’t enough to get into Duke, Quinn decides to try out for the school’s dance team.
Naturally, she bombs her audition and becomes the laughing stock of the school. With the help of her best friend, talented dancer, Jasmine (Liza Koshy), Quinn decides to start her own squad composed of socially awkward misfits who are secretly gifted dancers. Assisting Quinn along the way is former dance champion Jake Taylor (Jordan Fisher). Will Quinn get into Duke and dance way to victory?
Sabrina Carpenter has slowly made a name for herself as an actress since her appearance on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit back in 2011. However, Carpenter’s role as Hailey in the film The Hate U Give is where I began to take notice. One of the things I enjoyed with Carpenter’s portrayal was stepping outside of her comfort zone. Given that Carpenter is also a trained singer and dancer, she pulls off a rhythmless dancer with ease.
In terms of the supporting cast, YouTube Star Liza Koshy is good in the best friend role. I actually preferred her performance to Carpenter’s. Jordan Fisher is also decent as Quinn’s love interest and skilled dancer Jake Taylor. The script never paints Taylor as an arrogant bad boy; instead, he’s just someone who respects the arts of dance. Regretfully that’s where the positives end for the film, as it falls into standard dance movie clichés.
Talented young actor Keiynan Lonsdale is wasted as our villain, Isaiah. Instead of allowing Isaiah to come off as a witty villain with memorable punchlines, the script paints him as an egotistical jerk. Additionally, the character is portrayed as overly flamboyant, which doesn’t come off well, considering Lonsdale’s heartfelt turn as a gay teen in 2018’s, Love Simon. The script also fails to provide any arcs for Quinn’s dance team; instead, we get standard caricatures traits (i.e., failed athletes, loner). There’s also no real revelation on why Quinn is so set on going to Duke. Outside of a brief voiceover at the beginning of the film by Carpenter, the plot is never fully explored.
Musician Alicia Keys is one of the producers of Work It. Ironically, there isn’t a big push for the film’s soundtrack, nor is any of Keys music featured in the movie. Given the success of previous dance films such as Footloose, Step Up, and Save the Last Dance, I expected some quality music to be featured. However, there isn’t, and that ends up hurting the film as well.
As a 39-year-old man, I highly doubt that I am the intended audience for Work It, which is fine. Dance movies never bothered me growing up, truth be told, anyone who knows me can tell you how much I love Footloose. Sadly while Work It does stick to a formula that works for fans of the genre, the final product comes off as lazy. Dance movie fans and tween girls should enjoy Work It, everyone else can skip this one.
Final Grade C-
Work It is available for streaming at www.netflix.com/workit