Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Netflix: Review of JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS: Singing with Spirits

 September 16, 2020

Julie Molina (Madison Reyes) lost interest in music since her mother died one year ago, even if it meant losing her slot in her school's music program. One day, three friendly young ghosts of boy-band musicians appeared before Julie in her mom's studio. Ordinarily, only Julie can see and talk to the boys. However, when Julie performed songs with the boys as her band, everybody can see them like holograms. The boys helped Julie back into her musical groove, as Julie helped the boys with their unfinished business. 

The three boys were members of a 1995 pop rock band called Sunset Curve who died on the night that they were supposed to debut on the stage of the Orpheum Theater. The circumstances of their death were kept light, avoiding excess morbidity. Luke (Charlie Gillespie) was the main songwriter and lead singer and guitarist. Reggie (Jeremy Shada) played bass guitar, while Alex (Owen Joyner) played the drums. They had a fourth member, rhythm guitarist Bobby, who did not die, now going by the name Trevor Wilson (Steve Bacic).

Julie lived with her supportive father Ray (Carlos Molina) and perky younger brother Carlos (Sonny Bustamante), with their mom's busybody sister, Aunt Victoria, occasionally barging in. Julie best friend at school was Flynn (Jadah Marie), still of uncertain musical talent as of now. Julie's crush was Nick (Sacha Carlson), who just so happened to be the boyfriend of her nemesis, mean girl Carrie (Savannah Mae). Meanwhile, Alex met up with a new ghost friend, skater boy Willie (Booboo Stewart) who introduced the boys to ghost celebrity entertainer Caleb Covington (Cheyenne Jackson).

15-year old lead star Madison Reyes has a distinctive singing voice with a soaring range. Acting-wise, she is still obviously awkward in some scenes, as this was her very first acting job. Gillespie is a typical teen leading man type with magnetic screen presence and a strong singing voice to boot. Shada and Joyner were there more for the comedy. Joyner's Alex was given the LGBT aspect (integrated in most scripts now) with his relationship with Stewart's Willie. Carlson's Nick was mostly a bland boy-next-door type now, but he promises to be more flamboyant in Season 2.

This was a very lighthearted teenage musical comedy based on a Brazilian television series "Julie e os Fantasmas" aired on Nickelodeon from 2011-2012. But this Hollywood version had Kenny Ortega as producer and director. Ortega was the driving force behind the "High School Musical" series, and you can feel a lot of that juggernaut here when it came to the sound and overall execution of the song numbers. Some can be cringy and campy, like those song numbers of Carrie and Caleb. But those emotional songs of Julie ("Wake Up") and Luke ("Unsaid Emily") about their mothers were the best songs for me. 7/10. 

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