Netflix is attempting its hand at each style beneath the solar. You need actuality relationship competitions? Netflix has a present for that. Cheesy vacation films? Absolutely. Interactive choose-your-own-adventure video games? Choose from a pile of them. And now, with Julie and the Phantoms, Netflix is embracing the extremely particular subgenre of the Disney Channel Original Movie.
Netflix has actually ventured into preteen programming earlier than. Just just a few months in the past, the extremely acclaimed Baby-Sitters’ Club collection premiered on the platform. But Julie and the Phantoms’ 10-episode first season extra particularly evokes Disney Channel Original classics like Hannah Montana, High School Musical, and Shake It Up. Is it as a result of Disney Channel auteur Kenny Ortega is behind the present? Is it the glittery costumes and lavish musical sequences? Or the youngsters doing grandiose issues that the majority teenagers most likely couldn’t do?
Everything concerning the first trailer, for higher or for worse, spells out Disney Channel Original. Based on a Brazilian present of the identical title, Julie and the Phantoms’ first season proves Netflix can do wacky teen hijinks combined with supernatural parts — plus over-the-top moments infused with a real emotional core.
[Ed. Note: This overview incorporates slight spoilers for the primary season of Julie and the Phantoms.]
The present follows Julie (Madison Reyes), a once-aspiring musician who’s struggling a little bit of a inventive block after her mom’s demise. While cleansing out her mom’s previous studio, she by chance units the ghostly spirits of a boy band free. Only Julie can see the three hunky ghosts (Charlie Gillespie as lead singer Luke, Owen Joyner as soft-hearted drummer Alex, and Jeremy Shada as dopey guitarist Reggie) — however all of them rapidly uncover that after they all play collectively, the remainder of the world can see the boys. So naturally, Julie and the boys type a band. But as Julie struggles with faculty drama and her personal swaying confidence, the boys be taught extra about what it means to be lifeless, as they fight to determine what they even need out of their afterlives.
When it involves drama at college, Julie and the Phantoms appears like a rehash of each Disney Channel sitcom since Lizzie McGuire: there’s a imply in style woman who wears loads of pink and hates Julie for no actual purpose, and a cute in style boy who simply occurs to be relationship that imply woman. The antagonist, Carrie, isn’t given a lot nuance or character past “rich girl with her initials bedazzled on everything,” and whereas actress Savannah Lee May offers her all, the complete character appears like a shallow imitation of the good Queen Bees who got here earlier than her, particularly High School Musical’s Sharpay Evans. There are hints that there’s one thing extra to her, a deeper battle between her and Julie, however the first season by no means makes use of Carrie for something moreover snarky feedback.
The excellent news is that whereas Carrie’s insistence on undermining Julie’s musical profession does take up a good quantity of the plot’s bandwidth, the non-ghostly drama is much from shallow. The purpose Julie is struggling to carry out music is as a result of she’s nonetheless grieving for her mom. The clashes she has together with her father, brother, and aunt stem from this grief, however all of them clearly love and care about each other. Some of the emotional beats are huge, sweeping, and borderline tacky, nevertheless it all comes off in a really heat, feel-good approach. The excessive power and emotion is a function of the style, not a bug. The musical sequences are usually equally grandiose in a approach that exceeds the funds and planning skills of a high-school scholar, however hey, that’s what we’re right here for! Bring on the glitter, the fabulous costumes, the spectacular choreography!
But the present carves its personal path and shines brightest when it focuses not on life, however the afterlife. It’s not simply Julie determining what demise means the methods of the afterlife — Luke, Alex, and Reggie had no concept they’d been lifeless for 25 years. The 4 characters work out the technicalities of ghosts collectively, with some hilarious scenes the place Luke phases out and in of Julie’s fridge and Alex runs down the streets of Hollywood, via unsuspecting bystanders. Julie creates an elaborate lie to elucidate her mysterious bandmates — they’re musicians from Sweden, in order that they name in and venture their performances by way of holograms, duh! She figures out neat methods to get round the entire ghost factor, pulling out her telephone when speaking to Luke at college, so it doesn’t appear to be she’s speaking to herself.
The ghosts themselves are a loveable, laughable trio, every with their very own enjoyable little quirks. The friendship between the three of them — and in the end with Julie — is healthful and supportive. Eventually, the ghosts meet one other lifeless teenager, skater Willie (Booboo Stewart) who offers them some extra perception on their ghostly standing, inviting them to a mysterious nightclub. Cheyenne Jackson performs Caleb, the proprietor of mentioned haunted nightclub, the place ghosts occasion and carry out for all eternity. He wears a darkish cape and high hat, as a result of hey, if you happen to owned a haunted nightclub, wouldn’t you absolutely indulge within the aesthetic?
The collection isn’t all costumes and efficiency, although. What actually offers Julie and the Phantoms an additional oomph is the way in which it interrogates the not-so-happy facets of being lifeless. All the boys should take care of the truth that their households have moved on with out them, one thing that hits extra-hard when it’s revealed that all of them left their dad and mom on fairly unhealthy phrases. It’s a neat parallel to Julie’s personal grief: she’s a bit annoyed that as an alternative of her mom coming again to assist her, she will get these three random boys. But in time, all of them be taught from each other and assist one another develop, via over-the-top musical sequences, extraordinary quantities of glitter, and wacky supernatural hijinks. Netflix’s tackle the Disney Channel Original sitcom works, utilizing all of the subgenre’s excessive factors to weave a surprisingly emotional story.
Julie and the Phantoms is now streaming on Netflix.