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Netflix's latest original film, Work It, is a coming-of-age dance comedy that will bring joy to your life when you need it most (admit you, you know you do). Starring Sabrina Carpenter as Quinn, a bookish high school senior who must start her own dance team to clinch an acceptance to her dream college (thanks to a little white lie she tells during an admissions interview), the movie is pure fun. The dancing is, of course, breathtaking. But there's so much more to it than that.
Here, EW rounds up (five-six-seven-)eight reasons why you need to watch Work It, whether you're a dance movie aficionado or you've never even heard the words Step and Up or Center and Stage in the same sentence.
1. It's so much fun
Yeah, we said that already. But it bears repeating: Work It is a straight-up good time! All director Laura Terruso wanted while making this movie was for people to have fun while watching it. "I want you to want to get up and dance along with it, and as soon as it ends, you want to watch it again," she tells EW.
Carpenter had a blast filming the movie with costars Liza Koshy, Jordan Fisher, Keiynan Lonsdale, and the rest of the ensemble, and that translates on screen. "It doesn't take itself too seriously," she says. "We're very aware of how silly and crazy it all is. It's definitely lighthearted in a lot of ways. I hope this movie can bring people a little sense of joy right now."
"I just want people to feel good," Fisher says. "It's supposed to make you laugh, shed a tear, and then just get up and dance."
2. It has an inspiring message
Work It is deeper than you may expect. On the surface it's easy fun, but the way the movie uses dance is surprisingly sweet. "Dance is a universal language," Terruso says. "It connects us all and it really brings people together in an incredible way. It's a way to express your identity, your culture, your individuality in this way that's really unifying. Right now more than ever, we need unifying messages and something that's going to bring us together when we're all so separate and quarantined."
Carpenter was surprised by the story's real-world parallels. "It's just the fact that nothing is certain and change, although it seems really scary, a lot of the times is what brings you some of the most beautiful accidents you'll ever experience in your life," she says. "It's a bit of a wake-up call to take from this movie that it's never too late and you're never too old to start something new and to do something you really love. Life is a long time, and life is about trying things that scare you."
Fisher adds that everyone can learn something from what these characters go through, like his character, Jake, a former champion dancer reeling from a career-ending injury. "It's about dealing with things, it's about coming of age in all sorts of different ways and growing," he says. "We all need something like that, especially right now."
3. It's a dance comedy, which is a little different
Everyone loves a good dance movie. Even if you haven't seen that many, you can still list a few off the top of your head. But what about dance comedies? "That comedy element sets this apart from other dance movies," Terruso says. "We tried to be really playful and and have fun with it." Along with iconic dance films like Dirty Dancing, a big inspiration for Work It was Sister Act 2. "It's one of my favorite competition movies of all time," the director says. "In that film I felt like I really knew the kids, and it was fun and funny, and they were the underdogs and they win at the end. And it's all about being yourself and expressing yourself, so that was a big inspiration for this."
4. It's a dance movie… about someone who can't dance
You don't have to know anything about dance to enjoy Work It. It's literally about a girl who can't dance to save her life but ultimately finds the joy in dancing by expressing herself and learning how to have fun with it.
"Playing a character that can't dance is something that I've never done before," Carpenter says with a laugh. "I had to learn to get out of my body by watching videos of Napoleon Dynamite and things like that to look like the most awkward I could possibly look." Quinn's journey is actually pretty close to what the director experienced in her own life. "I had a similar experience in high school where I had to learn to dance for a part in a musical, and it really changed my life," Terruso says. "It changed the way I related to my body. And that connection is what drove me throughout to tell the story."
When it came to choreographing someone who can't dance along with top-tier dance champions, choreographer Aakomon Jones really had his work cut out for him. But he says he enjoyed that challenge more than anything. "We'll give you high-end, high-skill-level dance, and we'll give you funny, not-taking-ourselves-seriously-style dancing," he says. "And we'll meet you somewhere in the middle so that you're both impressed, you don't feel alienated, and you have a good time."
5. It's the most inclusive dance movie you'll ever see
"When I got the key art for Work It, it almost brought tears to my eyes," Fisher says. "It's so nice to look at the poster for a film and see all different shapes and sizes and colors and orientations and all of that. The diversity of this is so great. It's really about the people. And it's all celebrated."
That was important to the director from the very start. "When I pitched to get the job, one of the things I pitched was featuring differently abled dancers," Terruso says. "That was something that was really important to me because I want this to be a film where every young person watching sees themselves reflected on screen, and the message being that dance is for everyone. You don't have to be any specific way to be a dancer."
That culminated in a powerful scene in which Quinn and Jake watch a dance crew of differently abled teens perform on the street. "We cast dancers from this crew called ILL-Abilities," Terruso says. "There is a scene of where Jake is watching these differently abled dancers and realizing he quit dance for the wrong reasons. The day those guys came to set, I was so happy and so moved. It just felt like, yes, this is this is why we're making this movie."
6. The chemistry between Quinn and Jake is off the charts
While Quinn and Jake start off with a professional relationship as he teaches her to dance, we've all seen this song-and-dance before. You know it's going to become something more from the very first scene they share, and their chemistry is undeniable.
"Quinn isn't quite comfortable in her body, and that's Jake's expertise," Carpenter says. "My favorite dance scene in the movie, besides the finale because everyone loves a grand finale, is Quinn and Jake's first date. The cinematography of that scene and where it was shot, this beautiful underpass with the most beautiful colors, and the song, I remember how magical it felt shooting that scene that night on set. We wrapped at like 1 or 2 in the morning, and everyone was in such a state of bliss because we had captured something really special."
7. The soundtrack, duh
What's a dance movie without music? If you need a new playlist for a solo dance party in your apartment or something to get your adrenaline pumping for a run outside or an in-home workout, look no further. This soundtrack is the perfect thing to help switch things up during quarantine. It also features an original song from one of the stars: Carpenter wrote "Let Me Move You" only "a week after I saw the movie for the first time," she says. "We really needed a song for the end credits, but we needed it in a week. I wrote a couple songs, but 'Let Me Move You' ended up being the one that hit the energy of the film."
8. The cast is ridiculously talented
Watching Carpenter's character learn to dance (both on her own and with Fisher) or seeing Koshy and Lonsdale kick and flip their way all over the stage, you'll be blown away by how talented they are. But Jones still can't get over how they can all dance, act, and sing.
"You'll be shocked at how many triple-threats are in this movie, quite honestly," he says. "I didn't realize Sabrina was that. I didn't realize Liza was that. You look at her videos and you can see that she can dance, but it's the context of laughter. Here, she can dance with the laughter stripped away, and she can go with the best of them. I didn't realize Keiynan was as big a talent. I didn't realize that they were triple-threats, and I fully anticipate seeing more of them in the future."
Work It is now streaming on Netflix.