Disney+ original movies aren’t exactly a draw for a grown-up, but Better Nate Than Ever (2022) came highly recommended. Thus, I dove into this movie with little insight, other than the synopsis – and I couldn’t be more pleased. Some may claim this movie is too sweet or too sentimental, but in a time when so much is negative or angry, having a little bit of pure joy can go a long way to improving one’s mental state. I found this love letter to Broadway and musicals was just what I needed to pick up my attitude.
Nate Foster (Rueby Wood) is all set to star in the middle school musical, only…he didn’t get the part. However, his best friend, Libby (Aria Brooks), finds an opportunity for Nate to audition for an actual Broadway role. The two decide to take an overnight bus to New York, while Nate’s parents are out of town on vacation with plans to prove Nate has what it takes to be a star.
The entire film stems on the audience’s attachment to Wood and Brooks. Fortunately, I found both child actors to be incredible. Wood truly has the goods, and his opportunities to perform both the musical numbers and the various acting moments are extraordinary. At one point, Nate is asked to perform a monolog – and the performance Wood gives as Nate is pretty impressive. I’m not quite as stunned as the casting people, but I certainly enjoyed his role.
Brooks is a great best friend in this film, but she has tons of lead potential. She’s able to give a lot in each scene, and the natural elements she brings to the character of Libby make the friendship between her and Nate feel very organic. It’s not often to have a film with a great new child actor, but to have a film with two is extra impressive.
If I’d known Lisa Kudrow was in this playing Nate’s estranged aunt and a Broadway actress, I would have jumped into it all the sooner. Kudrow has long since been a favorite of mine, as I am a big fan of the TV show “Friends”. Much of her part in the film is some of the most sentimental material to be found here, and it really worked for me. Kudrow doesn’t always get to play the sweet or supportive character without a sense of irony – but here, she is allowed to be just a loving adult who truly admires her nephew. I loved it, and every moment of parental longing she displays is outstanding.
I can totally understand why someone may not find joy in this movie. It’s a musical. It’s a movie that loves musical theater. The main character is definitely a theater kid, and the movie loves that in every way. While you may not connect to this film if those things don’t work for you, I think the pure kindness that emanates from this film makes it worth a shot. I give Better Nate Than Ever the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.