Better Nate Than Ever reminds me about my dreams as a thirteen-year old obsessed with tap dancing and the movies. I looked forward to all the wonderful films of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. Who cared if the plots were always the same? When Mickey said “Let’s put on a show,” I knew dancing and singing were about to start, and that made me a happy camper, for sure. So I took tap lessons and saw as many movie musicals as possible.
We see right away that Nate (played with conviction by Rueby Wood), the main character in Better Nate Than Ever, is surrounded by posters for Wicked and other Broadway projects. We also watch him jump out of bed and dance like a pro while he’s getting dressed. And we can tell he’s eager to find out if he made the list for his school’s upcoming play. We also feel sorry for Nate when other students – as well as his older brother (Joshua Bassett) -- make fun of him.
Nate is only in seventh grade.
A life-decision he has made.
Broadway musicals, that’s his goal.
He feels it in his heart and soul.
He auditions for Broadway show.
But his parents don’t even know.
How can he make them understand?
His aunt helps him and that is grand.
Singing and dancing on Broadway.
Will Nate be able to win the day?
It’s fun to watch this little guy
with starry dreams up to the sky.
Musical lovers should enjoy
this adventure of one brave boy.
Rueby Wood seems to enjoy playing this role. It’s his first movie, but his professional background includes being cast as Charlie in the Broadway tour of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Plus, he can sing, dance and act up a storm. His super-dramatic audition monologue brings down the house.
Wood is lucky to have newcomer Aria Brooks portraying his good friend Libby. She projects a wonderful screen presence in scenes where Libby helps Nate with his Broadway goal. Everyone needs an unselfish friend like Libby. I should mention that they are just friends, no romance intended.
Lisa Kudrow plays Nate’s helpful Aunt Heidi, who also has Broadway in her blood. These two characters share some heart-tugging scenes together. Heidi feels bad about being ostracized from her sister’s (Michelle Federer) family, but she wants to keep in touch with her young nephew..
The musical numbers are fun. However, I wanted more of them. My favorite? Nate joining a group of New York buskers and singing “On Broadway,” which goes viral.
Better Nate Than Ever ends up being a feel-good movie. Thanks to writer/director Tim Federle for adapting his book for the screen. We need films like this during these difficult times.
What would this world be without music? --- Louis Armstrong
(Released by 20th Century Studios/Disney + and rated “PG” by MPAA.)
NOTE: The first paragraph of this review contains excerpts from my award-winning life-at-the-movies memoir titled Confessions of a Movie Addict published by Wheatmark. This book is available in paperback or E-book format on Amazon.com.