‘Nate’ takes coming of age to the Broadway stage

In the era of Disney remakes and reboots, Disney Plus released a semi-original film. Based on the book of the same name, “Better Nate Than Ever” shares a story of a 13-year-old as he works to achieve his dreams of being on Broadway. The director and book’s author, Tim Federle, presents this coming-of-age movie with typical charm and theatrics that would make anyone with a love of theater want to watch.

The film begins on the day the cast list is posted at Nate’s school. Nate (Rueby Wood) thinks he is up for the lead role, but does not get it. In response, Nate and his best friend Libby (Aria Brooks) decide they want to audition for the Broadway adaptation of “Lilo & Stitch.” 

The pair conjure up a plan to make it to New York City while Nate’s parents are out of town. The film presents much of Nate’s imagination, which acts in itself as a musical. Upon arriving in New York City, the pair realize that the “Big Apple” isn’t as glamorous and colorful as they dreamed. They are intimidated by the crowd of children and get sidestepped when they need to have a legal guardian sign them off on their audition.

To their surprise, Nate’s Aunt Heidi (Lisa Kudrow) shows up at the audition. After initial auditions, Nate is cut, but eventually gets asked to come back for a callback. One of the subplots of the movie follows Nate’s older brother Anthony (Joshua Bassett), as he disregards that his brother is gone until he sees a viral video of him in Times Square. The film takes a journey about the true importance of family and how having your family’s support is important. 

There are many heartwarming moments in the film involving the themes of friendship and family. The relationship between Nate and his aunt is prominent and Kudrow is phenomenal in showcasing a serious role. What makes the film stand out is the sense of believing in oneself. It is a journey through the eyes of a 13-year-old who is just discovering the world and it brings a lot of nostalgia. 

Coming from a theater background, I had similar experiences to Nate when I was his age. My first audition at a local theater managed to win me a main role in a musical production of “Pinocchio.” Watching this film brought me back to my younger self and made me reflect as it probably will for people who grew up doing theater. 

The music featured throughout is cute but not something that I will have on repeat. However, I wouldn’t take the movie as a musical. Simply put, “Better Nate Than Ever” is a film about support and how the people who you have behind you want to see you succeed.

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