Friday, October 1, 2021

"Better Nate Than Ever" Teaches Important Lessons

Life is often hard for the young and musically inclined. A glut of heavy competition and a lack of interest in the public makes roles very hard. Many children may even give up on their dreams and end up unhappy. That's where movies like "Better Nate Than Ever" come into play. 

What is "Better Nate Than Ever?" 

This film is a recent release by Tim Federle, an actor, and author who also wrote the book upon which this movie is based. His goal when creating the movie was to show a young and musically interested young person overcoming difficulties to reach their dreams. Federle dreamed up Nate Foster, an average 13-year-old boy with big dreams of becoming the next Broadway musical star. 

The only problem is that Nate isn't too popular in his school. Kids pick on him, his teachers mostly ignore him, and his chances of landing a big role in school musicals are next to nothing. The most popular kids always get the lead roles, even if they can barely sing, and mostly take theater and performance classes as an easy A. Nate, instead, always gets pushed into the chorus. 

All of these setbacks have him in a tough spot emotionally, and he's struggling to feel important. Many kids throughout the nation have these same feelings. They are taught to feel special and that they matter by well-meaning teachers. However, the reality of high school politics and popularity contests often leave many of these children behind, lost in confusion and unable to cope. 

Nate's Big Plan

Federle's book and film paint a fun and engaging story of one boy's attempt to break past these struggles to become the success he wants. That's because his best friend Libby comes up with a big plan. The two of them will go to New York City without letting anybody know to try out for "Lilo and Stich: The Musical." This selection of the musical is both comical and appropriate, considering the story's themes. 

The original "Lilo and Stitch" movie focused on a confused and isolated young person, someone who didn't feel at home anywhere. She finally gets a new best friend, an alien who is as literal an outside as she is metaphorically one. The two go on amazing adventures and discover a higher sense of purpose along the way. The parallels to Foster's drive are obvious. 

As you'd imagine, things don't go as planned. Federle keeps the plot brisk and clean, moving his characters quickly from one destination to the next. He gives the audience just enough time to reflect (and laugh: the film is quite funny) before moving to the next big scene and hilarious set-piece. 

That pause is important here. If the movie had just barreled over each plot point, its messages would be lost. Federle and the cast wisely let each point settle a moment, giving the expected teen audience just enough time to connect with each point and use it to plan for a better and happier life for themselves. And, hopefully, to learn to never stop chasing their dreams.

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