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Better Nate Than Ever Review: Exactly the Adventure Disney Plus Needs

Amidst a slew of Disney Plus original movies, Better Nate Than Ever finally brings some much needed pizazz. It’s perhaps no surprise that a kid’s movie in the perfect cinema is full of glittering effects. And perhaps unsurprisingly, the film was written and directed by High School Musical: The Musical: The Series showrunner Tim Federle, who proved his sensibility to the kids in the cinema with that Disney Plus series. But Better Nate Than Ever – based on Federle’s debut novel – shines from start to finish, with a brilliant central character and just enough whimsical and realism.

[Ed. note: This review contains slight setup spoilers for Better Nate Than Ever.]

nate enthusiastically raised his hand to volunteer to do something

Image: Disney

Nate Foster (new actor Rueby Wood) is a passionate theater boy who couldn’t catch up with any theater productions in his high school. When his parents are away for the weekend, Nate and his best friend Libby (Aria Brooks) decide to take a chance and run to New York to audition for a Broadway version of the movie. Lilo and Stitch. Doing it in the big city isn’t as flashy or easy as the musicals paint it, but Nate remains determined to fulfill his dream, despite the hardships facing him. In New York, he reunites with his estranged aunt Heidi (Lisa Kudrow), who has been trying to become an actress for years. Meanwhile, Nate also tries to keep high school brother Anthony (Joshua Bassett) from finding out he’s even left town.

Let’s tackle one thing: Better Nate Than Ever not one Disney Channel Original Movie. It has more budget and polish than things like Music High School, Camp Rockand Mouth lemonade. But unlike other Disney Plus Originals, Better Nate Than Ever keep the earnest charm share the best DCOMs. Often, Disney Plus Originals have held back the special appeal of a the all-time run without regrets, and tried to appeal to adults instead. But Better Nate Than Ever hits all the sweet spots, balancing heart and humour in a delightful mix that delivers a pleasant sensation.

The motivation of the film is Nate, a taciturn student in school who always stays true to himself. He has big dreams and he wants to make them come true, even if he has little support from his friends and family. He can’t take the lead roles in his school productions because the drama teacher assigns those roles to more “experienced” students (or maybe as experienced as middle schoolers). Nate found that frustrating because How is he supposed to gain experience when no one has a chance with him? It’s not a lack of talent, it’s a lack of opportunity, and that only makes Nate all the more likable.

libby and nate wait in line to audition

Image: Disney

In the role of Nate, Wood captures the extraordinary overpowering energy of an up-and-coming theater boy: a passionate love for the stage, a confidence that burns like sunshine, and a dream much bigger than that. his Pittsburgh suburbs – not to mention personality twisted uncomfortable, but in a way that feels realistic for a 13-year-old. He’s so awkward, and he tries too hard, but he’s lovable as hell. Wherever Nate went, he magnetically drew people in.

The three central supporting characters – Anthony, Libby and Heidi – also feel real. They’re mostly instrumental in pushing Nate’s story along, but we also get glimpses of their own struggles, which make them stand out from the side characters. Not all of them solved their problems during the movie’s runtime, but they all evolved a bit over the course of the movie, and they all learned something from Nate. The way Nate looks at Heidi, and the way she uses it as a motivation to reconnect with her family, is a particularly memorable side episode that is warm but not overblown. However, the focus is mainly on Nate herself, and that’s better. Other Disney Plus originals have attempted to put up plots that cannibalize older characters to compete with the main characters, at the expense of remembering who the movie is really for. But not so in the case of Better Nate Than Ever. The supporting characters – especially the adults – are not one-dimensional, but the story is still largely about Nate and his weekend whirlwind adventures.

anthony and heidi watch nate's callback

Image: Disney

Some elements of Better Nate Than Ever Bigger than life, but those are features, not bugs. That’s right, it’s unrealistic for two high school students to jump into town for the weekend and sneak into a Broadway audition. Yes, it’s all the more impractical when Nate hangs out in New York City with no place to stay, then goes viral after singing in the streets. Yes, the musical segments in his head are over-the-top (though to match the movie’s theatrical love, they always use realistic stage effects and costumes). But it’s part of the fantasy that makes these types of movies so appealing to kids – and to adults who may have been this type of kids. Nate actually faces some of the more fundamental struggles, like being teased by his peers, or navigating his strained relationship with his jock brother. But when it comes to the bigger struggles, it’s more than gratifying to see Nate soar over the obstacles, when he’s finally found motivation.

Better Nate Than Ever is a pleasure. It’s a tribute to theater kids (and kids who want to see theater) everywhere. It doesn’t offend the audience, but has enough grounds for the film to appeal to a mature audience. The story of a taciturn child trying to find his way in the world is quite popular, regardless of the viewer’s age and age. Better Nate Than Ever tells that story beautifully through its clumsily charming lead. Come to celebrate the theatrical energy for kids (and loads of fun Broadway references) and stay for Nate’s breathtaking adventures.

Better Nate Than Ever premieres on Disney Plus on April 1.

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