Review: ‘Emergency’ (2022), starring RJ Cyler, Donald Elise Watkins, Sebastian Chacon and Sabrina Carpenter

January 21, 2022

by Carla Hay

RJ Cyler, Sebastian Chacon and Donald Elise Watkins in “Emergency” (Photo by Quantrell Colbert/Amazon Content Services)

“Emergency” (2022)

Directed by Carey Williams

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city on the East Coast of the U.S., the comedy film “Emergency” features a cast of African American and white characters (with a few Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: After planning a night of partying on their college campus, two African American best friends and their Latino roommate have their plans go awry when they find an extremely intoxicated and barely conscious young white female in their house, and the pals have conflicts over what do about this problem.

Culture Audience: “Emergency” will appeal mainly to people who are interested in movies about misadventures of college partiers, but with themes of racial tension and how it affects people’s perspectives of dealing with law enforcement.

Madison Thompson, Sabrina Carpenter and Diego Abraham in “Emergency” (Photo courtesy of Amazon Content Services)

“Emergency” repeats a familiar comedy formula of male partiers getting into a big mess on one wild night, but there’s a Black Lives Matter spin on all the shenanigans. The movie’s heavy emotional turn toward the end makes it better than the average comedy about partiers caught up in a big problem, but some movie clichés still remain. Directed by Carey Williams and written by KD Davila, “Emergency” is likely to find an enthusiastic audience of supporters because the movie centers on characters who rarely get to be the lead characters in movies: black male college students. “Emergency” had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

“Emergency” opens with the introduction of the two best friends whose partying plans go haywire over fears that they’ll be wrongfully accused of a crime because they are African American. The two pals are undergraduate students in their last year at the fictional Buchanan University, which is in an unnamed city on the East Coast of the U.S. (“Emergency” was actually filmed in New York state.) Kunle, pronounced “kun-lay” (played by Donald Elise Watkins), is a straight-laced, straight-A student majoring in biology and has plans to go to graduate school at Princeton University. Sean (played by RJ Cyler) is a rebellious stoner with a vaping habit and no plans after he graduates. Sean’s college major is not mentioned in the movie.

Kunle and Sean are ready to party one weekend night in the spring, and they want to make it legendary. The university’s Black Student Union headquarters has a “hall of fame” wall displaying commemorative portrait plaques of black students at the school who were the first to achieve something at the university. For example, there are plaques for the first black student to be the school’s newspaper editor, or the first black student to be student government president. “Emergency” pokes fun of this “first black student” tribute wall by also having plaques for trivial things, such as the first black student to use 3-D printing.

Sean and Kunle want to get on the “hall of fame” wall as the first black students to do the Legendary Tour. What is the Legendary Tour? It’s a tour of seven major campus parties happening on the same night, for one night of the year. The parties are invitation-only with distributed passes, and it’s extremely difficult for anyone to score passes for all seven parties.

Not surprisingly, party-loving Sean is the one who’s more caught up than Kunle is in reaching this Legendary Tour goal. Sean is the one who goes to the trouble of getting all the passes that he and Kunle need to complete the Legendary Tour. Kunle goes along with these plans, but he has other things on his mind. He has to complete a very important scientific lab project as part of his thesis required for graduation. The lab project includes meticulous examination and storage of bacteria cultures.

On the day of the Legendary Tour, Sean and Kunle talk about their upcoming party plans and their love lives. Sean has an ex-girlfriend named Asa (played by Summer Madison), another Buchanan University student, who’s done with Sean, but he might not be completely over his feelings for her. Kunle is romantically unattached too, but he has a crush on another student named Bianca (played by Gillian Rabin), who’s in at least one class with Sean and Kunle. Sean, who can be rude and crude, says in typical Sean speak when he and Kunle talk about Bianca: “She wants your dick, bro.”

The movie has only one classroom scene, near the beginning of the film. It appears to be a sociology class, where a white British instructor named Professor Clarke (played by Nadine Lewington) says that the topic of the day is hate speech. Sean, Kunle and Bianca are among the students in the class. Not surprisingly, the first word that Professor Clarke wants to discuss is the “n” word, which she says repeatedly, as if she enjoys saying it out loud and knows she’s allowed to say it in this academic context. “What makes this word so powerful?” Professor Clarke asks the students.

Even though the professor reminded the students that this topic of hate speech comes with a trigger warning, and the students signed forms acknowledging that they might hear offensive words during this hate speech topic, Sean whispers to Kunle during the class that he’s still offended. Sean gripes to Kunle: “Why is she teaching a class that she knows nothing about?” Professor Clarke then sees Sean and Kunle talking, and she singles them out to answer questions about the “n” word, which makes Sean even more offended. However, he doesn’t voice his concerns to the professor.

Outside, after the class ends, Sean continues to rant about how Professor Clarke said the “n” word many times in class. Kunle understands both sides of the issue, but he’s also annoyed that Sean is complaining about it to him, not the professor. Kunle reminds Sean that he could’ve said something to the professor about being offended, but Sean didn’t.

Sean’s response is to say: “We got one rule that we ask for white people to respect: ‘Thou shalt not say that one word.’ But they don’t like for us to tell them what to do, so they find loopholes.”

Kunle is more willing to give Professor Clarke the benefit of the doubt by saying she probably didn’t mean any offense. It’s the first sign in the movie that Sean and Kunle have different views of race relations between black people and white people in America. Those differing opinions cause conflicts later on in the movie, which eventually shows if any opinions of the two friends change after their crazy night.

“Emergency” doesn’t go into details over how Sean and Kunle met or how long they’ve been friends, but they’ve been friends since at least their first year at Buchanan University. Conversations in the movie drop some details indicating that Kunle and Sean come from very different family backgrounds. Viewers can see these contrasting backgrounds also shape Sean’s and Kunle’s different perspectives of life as an African American man.

Kunle (who appears to be an only child, since he doesn’t mention any siblings) has parents who are doctors and African immigrants. Kunle is also somewhat of a mama’s boy, since there’s a scene where he talks to his overprotective mother (voiced by Ebbe Bassey) on the phone. There’s a scene later in the movie where Kunle and Sean have a big argument, and Kunle implies that he’s smarter than Sean and has a brighter future because Kunle had a “better” upbringing than Sean.

Sean doesn’t mention his parents, but he comes from a less privileged background where members of his family have had entanglements with police. At one point in the movie, Sean mentions an unarmed cousin who was shot in the rear end by a cop. And there’s another scene in the movie that takes place in the home of Sean’s older brother Terence (played by Robert Hamilton III), who doesn’t want to get involved in Sean’s problems because Terence is on parole for an unnamed reason. It’s hinted in this conversation that Sean has also gotten into trouble with the law in the past, but the movie doesn’t go into any details.

Sean and Kunle live together in an on-campus house with a third student, who’s also in his last year at Buchanan. His name is Carlos (played by Sebastian Chacon), and he’s a nerdy pothead who desperately wants to be accepted by Sean and Kunle to be their close friend. Carlos, who’s an aspiring mechanical aerospace engineer, spends a lot of time by himself smoking marijuana and playing video games. Kunle treats Carlos with more tolerance than Sean does. Sean thinks Carlos is very corny, immature and weird. Carlos wears a fanny pack and likes to offer granola bars to people as a way to try to make friends.

This friendship dynamic is a formula that’s been used in several other comedy films about male buddies who go out for a night of partying: Two best friends—one who’s mild-mannered and polite, the other who is cocky and foul-mouthed—end up with a “third wheel” pal/acquaintance who’s an eccentric misfit. Examples include 2007’s “Superbad,” 2009’s “The Hangover” and Hulu’s 2020 silly stoner comedy “The Binge.” You can also go all the way back to “Three Stooges” movies to find this formula. “Emergency” stands out because all three of the men happen to be people of color.

Sean has meticulously mapped out his and Kunle’s plans for the Legendary Tour, including the order in which they’ll go to each party and what they’ll be doing at each party. Even though Carlos wants to party with Sean and Kunle, Sean doesn’t want Carlos tagging along because he thinks Carlos is too much of a dork. Sean and Kunle plan to take Sean’s car for their night of debauchery. Kunle drinks alcohol but doesn’t do drugs, while Sean gives the impression that he’s up for doing any kind of drug that comes his way. Sean is drunk and stoned throughout most of the movie.

Things start to go wrong on the night of the Legendary Tour when Sean and Kunle are all set to go to the first stop on tour, and Kunle remembers that he accidentally forgot to properly refrigerate his lab bacteria cultures. In a panic, he tells Sean that if the cultures are ruined, his thesis will be ruined too, and he won’t be able to graduate. Kunle is also worried that messing up this assignment will hurt his chances of going to Princeton.

Sean doesn’t want to go to the parties without Kunle, so he agrees to go with Kunle to take care of this problem. It’s a detour that will delay their partying for about 15 to 20 minutes, so Sean is slightly annoyed but willing to go along with this change of plans. Before they go to the lab, Sean and Kunle have to stop off at their house to get the lab keys. And that’s when things get crazy.

Soon after arriving in the house, Sean and Kunle notice that the front door is unlocked. And on the living room floor is a white teenage girl, dressed in a pink mini-skirt outfit and barely conscious. She’s so intoxicated that she can barely talk, so getting any information from her is useless. The teenager has no purse or ID on her either. And then she starts vomiting, for the first of several times in the movie.

A panicked Sean and Kunle go in Carlos’ room to find out what’s going on and who this mystery girl is, but Carlos has locked himself in his room, getting stoned and playing video games. Carlos doesn’t know who the teenager is and how she got into the house. Carlos is blamed for not knowing how this teenage girl got into the house when he was home, so he’s pressured into helping fix this problem.

Kunle’s first thought is to call 911, but Sean adamantly refuses because he’s certain that because they’re three young men of color in a house with an unconscious white female, they will automatically be blamed for a crime. There’s some back-and-forth arguing over what to do. Kunle hates Sean’s idea to secretly drop the teenager off at a nearby party, but Kunle agrees to the idea that they should anonymously bring her to a hospital.

Of course, there would be no “Emergency” movie if things went according to these friends’ plans. Sean, Kunle and Carlos put the mystery girl in the back of Sean’s car, as they drive to the nearest hospital. What they don’t know yet, but the audience finds out early on, is that her name is Emma (played by Maddie Nichols), and she’s the younger sister of a Buchanan student named Maddy (played by Sabrina Carpenter), who now knows that Emma is missing and is frantically looking for her.

Maddy invited Emma to hang out with her for some campus partying but lost track of Emma. Maddy doesn’t want to call the police to report Emma missing because Maddy is drunk and doesn’t want to get in trouble for underage drinking. And so, Maddy enlists the help of her level-headed friend Alice (played by Madison Thompson) and Alice’s love interest Rafael (played by Diego Abraham) to find Emma. Luckily, Emma has a Find My app on her phone, so that Maddy, Alice and Rafael can track the general area of where she is.

This phone tracking is crucial to a lot of the twists and turns in “Emergency,” but there are still a few plot holes where viewers have to suspend some disbelief. The biggest plot hole is that Maddy didn’t call Emma’s phone while looking for Emma. Maddy sends texts instead. If Maddy had called the phone, then Sean, Kunle and Carlos would’ve heard the phone ringing and found out right away that Emma had a phone, and none of this mess would’ve happened. And where exactly was Emma’s phone? Why were Sean, Kunle and Carlos not able to see it? Those questions are answered in the last third of the movie.

“Emergency” has a few contrivances to ramp up the comedy, such as Maddy, Alice and Raphael only having a bicycle and a hoverboard to get around for transportation. A running joke in the film is that Maddy (who’s too drunk to operate anything that moves) has to be stuck on the back of the bike, while whoever is operating the bike has to work extra hard to pedal the bike because of the extra weight. The movie makes a point of depicting Maddy as a very quick-tempered, bossy and entitled person.

If Maddy is afraid of getting busted by police for underage drinking, Sean is afraid of getting killed by police, just for being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sean repeatedly warns Kunle that it could happen to them. And so, there’s a scene where Sean and Kunle try to find white or Asian friends who can call 911 for them. Even though this scene is supposed to be hilarious, there’s some biting truth in how the scene comments on racial disparities between how law enforcement treats black people compared to other races.

“Emergency” also pokes fun at the hypocrisy of white people who claim to support the Black Lives Matter movement but are quick to assume that black people are criminals. This happens in a scene in a quiet suburban neighborhood where Emma has to be taken into some shrubbery so that she can urinate. A suspicious white couple (played by Melanie Jeffcoat and James Healy Jr.) in a nearby house see Sean sitting in his car alone on the street outside the house while this is going on. You can easily guess what happens from there, because the movie makes the point that if Sean had been white, this suspicious couple might have had a very different reaction. Ironically, there’s a Black Lives Matter sign on this couple’s lawn.

“Emergency” has a lot to say about race relations, racism and how they are affected by people’s perceptions and interactions with law enforcement. Even though it’s a fictional movie, it brings up many uncomfortable truths about how people are treated and see the world differently because of racial inequalities. Some viewers might laugh at how “paranoid” Sean acts throughout the entire movie. But sadly, his outlook is the reality of many people.

As a comedy, the movie has some slapstick ridiculousness and it tends to over-rely on gross-out vomit gags, but all of it doesn’t undermine the movie’s message. Cyler and Watkins are a dynamic duo in how they portray this realistic friendship. Their emotional moments that come later in the movie are well-acted and have a resonance that goes deeper than a typical comedy film. Chacon is quite good in his role as a sweet-natured misfit, while Carpenter plays her “entitled princess” role to the hilt.

Is “Emergency” a perfect movie? No. For a movie that’s supposed to be about life from an African American perspective, “Emergency” gives very little screen time or importance to African American women. Sean’s ex-girlfriend Asa is the movie’s only black female character who has more than one scene, but she’s in the movie for less than 10 minutes. In one of her brief appearances, Asa says to Sean about Kunle: “Don’t go dragging him into your bullshit. That boy is Black Excellence.”

“Emergency” is so focused on the pain and pressure that black men get from racism, it fails to mention or show that black women share this burden too. In fact, the Black Lives Matter movement was started by African American women. Filmmakers need to be more mindful of how black women are depicted in movies like “Emergency,” because these filmmakers can be guilty of the same sidelining of black women that happens in so-called “racially insensitive” and “racist” movies.

Despite these flaws in the movie, “Emergency” skillfully blends comedy with some of the serious issues presented in the film. The cast members also elevate the material, which could have been mishandled if the cast members weren’t talented. Sean is the flashiest character in “Emergency,” but the movie wants audiences to pay the most attention to Kunle’s perspective and how Kunle is affected by what he goes through in this story.

UPDATE: Amazon Studios will release “Emergency” in select U.S. cinemas on May 20, 2022. Prime Video will premiere the movie on May 27, 2022.

Review: ‘Work It,’ starring Sabrina Carpenter, Liza Koshy, Keiynan Lonsdale and Jordan Fisher

August 7, 2020

by Carla Hay

Neil Robles, Bianca Asilo, Tyler Hutchings, Liza Koshy, Jordan Fisher, Sabrina Carpenter, Nathaniel Scarlette and Indiana Mehta in “Work It” (Photo by Brendan Adam-Zwelling/Netflix)

“Work It” 

Directed by Laura Terruso

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the dramedy film “Work It” has a racially diverse cast (white, African American and Asian) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash:  A high-school senior, who’s an overachiever but a clumsy dancer, wants to win a group dance contest in order to impress a college admissions officer, so she recruits a group of misfits to train as dancers and dethrone the reigning champs.

Culture Audience: “Work It” will appeal primarily to people who like formulaic movies about students involved in dance contests.

Pictured in front row: Kalliane Bremault, Keiynan Lonsdale and Briana Andrade-Jones in “Work It” (Photo by Brendan Adam-Zwelling/Netflix)

Imagine a movie that takes almost every stereotypical plot in a teen movie and piles it on top of more clichés until it becomes a mindless mush of forgettable unoriginality. The result is the “Work It,” a dramedy that’s so derivative that even the movie’s title is recycled and bland. Directed by Laura Terruso and written by Alison Peck, “Work It” follows every formula of a teen dance movie to the point where people can predict what can happen even without seeing a second of this film. What saves “Work It” from being completely awful is much of the eye-catching choreography and the comedic talents of some of the cast members.

Here some of the high-school movie tropes in “Work it” that check a lot cliché boxes: Is there a nerdy protagonist who wants to transform into becoming more popular? Check. In “Work It,” she’s overachiever Quinn Ackerman (played by Sabrina Carpenter), a senior at the fictional Woodbright High School, which is located in an unnamed U.S. city. Quinn is consumed with her goal to get into Duke University, her late father’s alma mater.

Is there a big upcoming contest that will be a test of her popularity? Check. It’s the annual Work It dance competition, and Woodbright’s elite dance team the Thunderbirds are the reigning champs. Is there a sassy best friend who provides most of the comic relief? Check. She’s Jasmine “Jas” Hale (played by Liza Koshy), who is one of the best dancers on the Thunderbirds team.

Is there a villain? Check. The very arrogant captain of the Thunderbirds is Isaiah “Julliard” Pembroke (played Keiynan Lonsdale), who insists that people call him Julliard, because he’s convinced that he has what it takes to be admitted to this prestigious performing-arts college. Is there a love interest for the protagonist? Check. And is there a group of misfits who will band together with the protagonist to help her achieve her popularity goal? Check.

At the beginning of “Work it,” the conflict between Quinn and Julliard starts when Quinn, who has been a volunteer lightboard operator for the Thunderbirds, accidentally spills coffee on the lightboard during a Thunderbirds rehearsal. The accident results in a big electrical malfunction that singes the hair of one of the Thunderbirds named Brit Turner (played by Kalliane Bremault), who is one of Julliard’s fawning sidekicks.

Julliard storms into the studio control area with Brit and his other main sycophant Trinity (played by Briana Andrade-Jones), and rudely scolds Quinn about the mishap: “It is my responsibility to lead the team to a fourth consecutive victory!” Quinn makes a profuse apology and promises that the accident won’t happen again. But Julliard is not having it.

“Brit’s hair was singed,” he huffs imperiously. “She probably has to get bangs now, and she doesn’t have the face for it.” Julliard then haughtily fires Quinn by telling her, “You are banished from this room!”

Quinn’s feelings are hurt by the dismissal, but she has something bigger to worry about: her upcoming in-person interview with an admission officer at Duke University. Quinn, who narrates this film, explains in a voiceover that she’s fixated on attending Duke because her father was a Duke alum, and Quinn has happy memories of going to Duke football games and alumni events. Quinn says of Duke: “It feels like home—if you had a less than 6% acceptance rate.”

Quinn’s supportive mother Maria Ackerman (played by Naomi Snieckus) is equally enthusiastic about Quinn attending Duke. Maria and Quinn share a tendency to be worried, neurotic and over-prepared. They are both nervous wrecks by the time that Maria drives Quinn to Duke for Quinn’s interview.

At the interview, Quinn lists her qualifications for why she’s an ideal candidate for Duke: She’s a national Merit Scholar with a 4.0 GPA. She’s the student government treasurer at her high school. For extracurricular activities, she’s president of the school’s AV Club; she volunteers at a nursing home three days a week; and she plays the cello.

The Duke admissions officer Veronica Ramirez (played by Michelle Buteau) makes it clear to Quinn that she’s bored and unimpressed because other applicants have the same qualifications. Ms. Ramirez tells Quinn that they’re looking for risk-takers who are passionate about something, so Quinn blurts out that she really likes the Thunderbirds, who are the reigning champs of the Work It competition.

Ms. Ramirez comments that she loves the Work It competition, and she assumes that Quinn is part of the Thunderbirds dance team. Quinn doesn’t correct her and tell her the truth: That she’s not a dancer and she’s not even part of the Thunderbirds anymore as their lightboard operator.

But then, Quinn soon regrets this deliberate misleading, because Ms. Ramirez then excitedly tells Quinn that she’ll be at the Work It competition this year and that she looks forward to seeing Quinn there. The Work It contest happens before Quinn will find out if she got accepted into Duke, so she leaves the interview silently panicking over how she’s going to be able to get out of this big lie with the one person who can make or break her admission into Duke.

After thinking about writing an apology email confessing her lie, Quinn changes her mind and comes up with a desperate plan: She’ll learn how to dance in the few weeks left before the qualifying stage of the contest, audition for the Thunderbirds, and then get into the Work It competition as part of the Thunderbirds dance team. Quinn begs a reluctant Jas to be her dance teacher, by reminding Jas that Quinn has helped her with her academics, and it’s time to return the favor.

The big problem, of course, is that Quinn is an uncoordinated klutz. Quinn also wants to dancer/choreographer Jake Taylor (played by Jordan Fisher), who’s a few years older than she is, to coach her. Jake was expected to make it big as a dancer after a won a major dance contest, but his dance career was cut short after he got an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, and he disappeared from the professional dance scene.

Of course, Quinn tracks him down, and finds out that he’s been making a living teaching elementary-school-aged kids how to dance. Jake still has a lot of talent, but the injury has shaken his confidence in becoming a professional dancer again. Quinn shows up unannounced at one of his classes and tells him that she wants him to teach her how to dance and she won’t take no for an anwer. He’s annoyed and amused by Quinn’s persistence and basically tells her to go away. But since he’s Quinn’s obvious love interest, this won’t be the last we see of Jake in this story.

Quinn’s audition for the Thunderbirds goes as badly as you think it does. Julliard gets a big laugh over Quinn’s humiliation, especially when she begs him to join the team. He sarcastically suggests that maybe Quinn should start her own dance team. And you just know she does.

Quinn’s first recruit is Jas, who’s reluctant at first to quit the Thunderbirds. But Julliard treats everyone on the Thunderbirds team like crap, so it isn’t long before Jas is all-in for Quinn’s team. Quinn can’t think of an official name, so she calls the team TBD—as in, to be determined.

And this is where the misfits come in: One by one, Quinn convinces other unlikely students at the school to join her team. Raven (played by Bianca Asilo) is a pessimistic Goth girl who likes to dance to heavy-metal songs for videos that she puts on social media. Chris Royo (played by Neil Robles) is a social outcast on his soccer team, but he has good rhythm. Quinn appeals to Chris’ ego by telling him that he’ll be more appreciated on her dance team than on the soccer team.

DJ Tapes (played by Nathaniel Scarlette) is a dancer who seems to be straight out of the ‘80s, with a boombox and hip-hop breakdancing style. Robby G. (Tyler Hutchins) is a tall, thin dorky type whose claim to fame is he was once seen doing a back flip. Quinn tracks him down at a karate dojo. Priya Singh (played by Indiana Mehta) is a sarcastic roller skater, who has a knack for twirling, so she’s enlisted for the dance team too.

“Work It” has the expected montages of Quinn and the rest of her motley crew being terrible dancers (except for Jas), with the expected clumsy falls and uncoordinated moves, with Quinn being the driving force for them not to give up. There’s also a running joke in the film that Jas has a crush on a hunky guy named Charlie (played by Drew Ray Tanner), who works as a salesman in a mattress store. And so, there are multiple scenes of Jas engaging in all sorts of hijinks (including asking Charlie to “spoon” with her on a bed mattress), in order to get his attention.

Koshy is one of the few bright spots in this dreadfully predictable film. Even though she and the other cast members have a lot of cringeworthy dialogue, Koshy’s comedic timing and facial expressions show that she has real knack for bringing a humorous flair that can elevate some horrible screenwriting. She’s a bit of a scene stealer. Lonsdale also looks like he’s having funny playing a flamboyant villain, even if the role at times veers too much into some stereotypical tropes that male dancers have catty, effeminate qualities.

Carpenter is just fine in her role as Quinn, the story’s heroine, although she’s played the “good girl” many times before on screen, so it’s not much of an acting stretch for her. As for Fisher, he is charming enough in his role, but his Jake character is written as kind of a blank slate, with no sense of who his family or friends are.

The chemistry and dancing between Carpenter and Fisher are fairly tame (this movie is no “Dirty Dancing”), as is most of the film’s humor. However, there is one scene where a male dancer’s erection is played for cheap laughs. The target audience for this movie is obviously kids in the age range of 12 to 17, so the erection scene is this movie’s way of being “edgy” for this type of audience.

Most of this movie’s attempts at humor fall flat and have very cheesy lines. For example, when Quinn and her dance team decide to go to the nursing home where she volunteers, so that they can practice in front of a live audience, the only person who’s in the audience is a nursing home resident, who ends up dying during the performance. Priya says as the man’s corpse is being taken away in an ambulance: “I’m pretty sure the key to a live audience is keeping them alive.”

The movie’s dancing and choreography are very “So You Think You Can Dance.” There are some eye-catching moments, but nothing that will make “Work It” a classic dance film. The movie’s soundtrack is also a predictable collection of pop tunes, including Dua Lipa’s “Break My Heart,” Normani’s “Motivation,” Ciara’s “Thinkin Bout You,” Meghan Trainor’s “Treat Myself” and Zara Larsson’s “WOW.”

All the energy put into the dance numbers still can’t erase the fact that “Work It” is hopelessly lazy when it comes to the generic way that the story is told. The only steps that this vapid movie seems concerned with are those that move from story cliché to story cliché.

Netflix premiered “Work It” on August 7, 2020.

2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘The Short History of the Long Road’

April 28, 2019

by Carla Hay

Sabrina Carpenter in “The Short History of the Long Road” (Photo by Cailin Yatsko)

“The Short History of the Long Road

Directed by Ani Simon-Kennedy

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 27, 2019.

There comes a point in any career of a Disney Channel or Nickelodeon star who wants to transition from “teen idol” to “serious artist” that he or she takes on a gritty role so that people will change their perception of them as just another pretty face. Sabrina Carpenter, a singer/actress who has done several Disney Channel projects, has chosen her first such transitional role in the emotional drama “The Short History of the Long Road.” In the movie, she plays a homeless teen named Nola Frankel, who is searching for her long-lost mother, who abandoned Nola as a baby.

In the beginning of the story, Nola is living out of a motorhome van with her father Clint (played by Steven Ogg), an over-protective, paranoid vagrant who thinks that settling down in one place and living among society are dangerous for the soul. Although Clint and Nola don’t live completely off the grid (he makes money by doing odd jobs, such as repairs), he has some quirky habits that have affected Nola’s outlook on life. One of those habits is whenever he and Nola see a movie in a theater or on TV, he won’t let her watch the movie’s ending. We find out early on in this story that Nola’s mother leaving the family has a lot to do with why Clint is raising Nola in a nomadic existence. Nola doesn’t know any other life, since she was raised that way since she was a toddler, and Clint is very reluctant to tell her details about her mother.

Although some people might think this movie is similar to the 2018 film “Leave No Trace” (another grim story about a homeless, paranoid father raising his teenage daughter outside of the norms of society), “The Short History of the Long Road” is not the same kind of movie because it’s not as depressing as “Leave No Trace.” For starters, Clint is the kind of parent who has a sense of adventure, and he doesn’t want to hide his daughter from the world, whereas the father in “Leave No Trace” wants to live in such extreme seclusion in the woods to the point where people can’t find him and his daughter. Although Clint doesn’t trust the school system, he’s educated Nola and passed on a love of books to his daughter—they often go to libraries in their travels—and he has no problems interacting with people in a friendly manner when he needs to make money. Clint also doesn’t keep Nola isolated, since they go to restaurants, stores and movie theaters.

Still, the mystery over what happened to Nola’s mother is starting to weigh on Nola, and Clint’s vague answers (“she zigged while we zagged”) aren’t going to satisfy her any longer. The only thing that Clint will tell her is that when he and Nola’s mother were a couple, they used to own a bar together, and she left Clint and Nola shortly after Nola was born. Clint promises he’ll tell Nola more about her mother when they get to New Orleans (Nola was named after the city’s nickname), but before they get there, something happens to Clint in the first third of the movie that leaves Nola on her own.

Nola is self-sufficient enough to know how to drive a car (even though she doesn’t have a license) and she can make basic repairs, but as a teenage girl, it’s harder for her than it was for her father to get people to hire her for odd jobs. In addition to dealing with the stress of being homeless, alone, and trying to get money legally, Nola has to dodge anyone who might turn her in to child welfare authorities if they find out she’s under 18. She also still has the goal to find her mother.

Although Carpenter is fairly convincing as a distressed teen and brings a certain plucky spirit to the role, what isn’t entirely convincing is how the movie’s screenplay (which was written by director Ani Simon-Kennedy) glosses over some very serious issues of what life would really be like for a teenage girl in Nola’s situation. Nola has to be the luckiest homeless teenage girl in the U.S., because not once does she have anyone try to take advantage of her.

Yes, Nola gets into some uncomfortable situations where she has to contemplate whether or not she’s going to steal in order to eat, but somehow she gets enough money for gas to travel from state to state. Not once is she ever robbed, conned or enticed into criminal activities by people who see that she’s desperate for cash. We don’t know if Clint ever taught Nola any physical self-defense skills because she doesn’t need to defend herself from that kind of harm in this story. Even with the protection of living in a van, she gets into some dicey situations where, if this were the real world, it would be very unlikely that she would walk away unscathed.

For example, in one part of the movie, Nola ends up crashing at an empty house that appears to be unoccupied because the house is in foreclosure. When a rowdy bunch of young male skateboarders enter the house to skate in the empty swimming pool, there’s some initial tension between the skateboarders and Nola, but then the skateboarders invite Nola to party with them in the house. Here’s a young, attractive female in a group of intoxicated, rebellious guys who know she’s homeless and on her own, so it’s kind of unbelievable that none of them would try to make any moves on her.

And her luck continues throughout the story: When Nola (who looks underage and doesn’t have a fake ID) gets caught sleeping in her van late at night in a parking lot, a security guard just shoos her away, even though she’s obviously an underage child out past curfew time. When she tries to steal gas from a recreational vehicle camper owned by a senior citizen, he catches her in the act, but goes easy on her by sending her off with just a warning instead of calling the police. The entire time that she’s traveling, when it’s obvious she’s on her own, she doesn’t have creepy guys offering to “help her out,” even though in real life we all know this would happen to her.

At a convenience store, a female customer named Marcie (played by Rusty Schwimmer) figures out that Nola is homeless, and invites her to eat at a church’s soup kitchen where Marcie happens to be a volunteer. When Marcie gains Nola’s trust, she later invites Nola to live with her, her husband and the other foster kids they are raising. Nola doesn’t stay for long—Marcie is a little too strict and a little too religious for Nola—because Nola is really on a mission to find her mother.

At another point in the story, Nola’s van (which is nicknamed The Hulk) breaks down, and needs repairs that Nola can’t afford to pay. So, she convinces the owner of an auto body shop, a tough-but-tender taskmaster named Miguel (played by Danny Trejo), to let her work for him in order to pay off the cost of the repairs. It isn’t long before Miguel lets Nola live rent-free at the body shop. While she lives and works at Miguel’s body shop, Nola notices a Navajo Indian teenage girl close to her age named Blue (played by Jashaun St. John), who keeps hanging around. Nola and Blue strike up a tentative friendship, and Blue reveals that she doesn’t like to be at home because her widowed father is abusing her. Blue dreams of escaping from her father by moving in with an aunt, who has invited Blue to live with her on a reservation.

It would be too much of a spoiler to reveal if Nola ever finds her mother. Getting the answer to that mystery is one of the main reasons why “The Short History of the Long Road” is more engaging than it should be, considering the movie’s sanitized portrayal of being a homeless teenage girl. Carpenter does as good of a job as she can with the script that she’s been given. This movie didn’t need to have any big, histrionic moments or non-stop mayhem. In fact, Carpenter’s adept portrayal of Nola’s quiet desperation is one of the best things about the film. However, a little more realism about the dangers of being a homeless teenage girl traveling alone across the country would have gone a long way in improving this story.

UPDATE: FilmRise will release “The Short History of the Long Road” in select U.S. theaters on June 12, 2020, and on digital and VOD on June 16, 2020.

2018 iHeartRadio Jingle Ball tour: lineup and tour dates announced

October 9, 2018

The following is a press release from iHeartMedia:

 iHeartMedia will celebrate the holiday season across the nation with its annual “iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour Presented by Capital One®” – the season’s spectacular music event, which captures the music and holiday spirit of the iHeartRadio app with performances by this year’s biggest recording artists. The iHeartRadio Jingle Ball 2018 Tour Presented by Capital One will stop in Dallas; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Minneapolis; Boston; Philadelphia; New York; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Atlanta; Tampa and Miami/Ft. Lauderdale.

“Over the past 22 years, Jingle Ball has become one of the nation’s most iconic holiday events,” said Tom Poleman, Chief Programming Officer for iHeartMedia. “It’s the night where you can see all of the biggest pop artists of the year on one stage.”

Each year, iHeartMedia stations across the country host Jingle Ball concerts in local cities that feature performances by the year’s most iconic recording artists as well as emerging talent. Z100’s Jingle Ball in New York on Friday, December 7 will be carried live on 100 iHeartRadio CHR stations.  The CW Network will also exclusively livestream Z100’s Jingle Ball via CWTV.com and The CW App, and broadcast the event as an exclusive nationwide television special on December 16 at 8 p.m. EST/PST.

“What started as a Holiday concert in New York City in 1996, has grown into a 12-city arena tour, a nationwide network television special and a radio broadcast.” said John Sykes, President of Entertainment Enterprises for iHeartMedia.

For the fourth straight year, Capital One will be the national presenting partner for the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour. As part of this sponsorship, Capital One cardholders will be the first to get exclusive access to high demand tickets through a special iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Capital One Cardholder Pre-Sale in each city.

  •  The iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Capital One Cardholder Pre-Sale begins on Wednesday, October 10 at 10 a.m. local time and runs through Saturday, October 13 at 10 a.m. local time, or while supplies last.  Tickets will be available at www.iHeartRadio.com/CapitalOne.
  • All other tickets go on sale to the general public on Monday, October 15 at 12 p.m. local market time and will be available at www.iHeartRadio.com/JingleBall.

Exclusive Capital One Premier Access Packages will also be available in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York during the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Capital One Cardholder Pre-sale, while supplies last. In addition to the Capital One Cardholder Pre-Sale & Premier Access Packages, at each of the tour stops, one lucky Capital One cardholder will have the opportunity to announce an artist on stage. To learn more about these exclusive cardholder opportunities, visit www.iHeartRadio.com/CapitalOne.

The iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour 2018 Schedule Includes:

Dallas, Texas – Tuesday, November 27 at 7:30 p.m. CST – 106.1 KISS FM’s Jingle Ball 2018 Presented by Capital One at American Airlines Center

  • The star studded lineup features: Shawn Mendes, Calvin Harris, Alessia Cara, NF, Bebe Rexha, Bazzi and Sabrina Carpenter
  • Ticket information available via 1061kissfm.iheart.com

Los Angeles, Ca. – Friday, November 30, at 7:30 p.m. PST – KIIS FM’s Jingle Ball 2018 Presented by Capital One at The Forum

  • The star studded lineup features: Cardi B, Shawn Mendes, Calvin Harris, Camila Cabello, Khalid with Special Guest Normani, Dua Lipa, G-Eazy, Alessia Cara, Bazzi and Bebe Rexha
  • Ticket information available via kiisfm.iheart.com

San Francisco – Saturday, December 1, at 7:30 p.m. PST – WiLD 94.9’s FM’s Jingle Ball 2018 Presented by Capital One at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

  • The star studded lineup features: Calvin Harris, 5 Seconds of Summer, Alessia Cara, Khalid with Special Guest Normani, Sabrina Carpenter, Bazzi and Marc E. Bassy
  • Ticket information available via wild949.iheart.com

Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn. – Monday, December 3, at 7:30 p.m. CST – 101.3 KDWB’s Jingle Ball 2018 Presented by Capital One at Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul

  • The star studded lineup features: The Chainsmokers, 5 Seconds of Summer, Bebe Rexha, Bazzi and Sabrina Carpenter

Boston, Mass. – Tuesday, December 4, at 7:00 p.m. EST – KISS 108’s Jingle Ball 2018 Presented by Capital One at TD Garden

  •  The star-studded lineup features: Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello, The Chainsmokers. G-Eazy, Khalid, Meghan Trainor and Bazzi

Philadelphia, Pa. – Wednesday, December 5, at 7:30 p.m. EST – Q102’s Jingle Ball 2018 Presented by Capital One at Wells Fargo Center

  •  The star studded lineup features: Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello, Calvin Harris, 5 Seconds of Summer, Marshmello, Dua Lipa, G-Eazy and Bazzi

New York, N.Y. – Friday, December 7, at 7:00 p.m. EST – Z100’s Jingle Ball 2018 Presented by Capital One at Madison Square Garden

  • The star studded lineup features: Cardi B, Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello, Calvin Harris, G-Eazy, Dua Lipa, Khalid with Special Guest Normani, Alessia Cara, Meghan Trainor, Bebe Rexha, Bazzi and Sabrina Carpenter
  • Ticket information available via Z100.iheart.com
  • Z100’s Jingle Ball 2018 will video stream exclusively live on CWTV.com and The CW App and will air as a television special on The CW Network on December 16 at 8 p.m. EST/PST.

Washington, D.C. – Monday, December 10, at 7:30 p.m. EST – Hot 99.5’s Jingle Ball 2018 Presented by Capital One at Capital One Arena

  • The star-studded lineup features: Shawn Mendes, The Chainsmokers, G-Eazy, Meghan Trainor, NF, Bebe Rexha, Bazzi and Sabrina Carpenter

Chicago, Ill. – Wednesday, December 12, at 7:30 p.m. CST – 103.5 KISS FM’s Jingle Ball 2018 Presented by Capital One at Allstate Arena

  • The star-studded lineup features: Shawn Mendes, Calvin Harris, Dua Lipa, Alessia Cara, Bebe Rexha, Bazzi and Sabrina Carpenter

Atlanta, Ga. – Friday, December 14, at 7:30 p.m. EST – Power 96.1’s Jingle Ball 2018 Presented by Capital One at State Farm Arena

  • The star-studded lineup features: Shawn Mendes, Calvin Harris, G Eazy, Marshmello, Bazzi, Alessia Cara and Sabrina Carpenter
  •  Ticket information available at power961.iheart.com

Tampa Bay, Fla. – Saturday, December 15, at 7:00 p.m. EST – 93.3 FLZ’s Jingle Ball 2018 Presented by Capital One at Amalie Arena

  • The star-studded lineup features: Shawn Mendes, Marshmello, Khalid, NF, Bebe Rexha, Bazzi and Sabrina Carpenter

Ft. Lauderdale/Miami, Fla. – Sunday, December 16, at 7:30 p.m. EST – Y100 Jingle Ball 2018 Presented by Capital One at BB&T Center, Ft. Lauderdale

  • The star-studded lineup features: Shawn Mendes, Calvin Harris, Khalid, Marshmello, Bebe Rexha, Alessia Cara, Bazzi and Sabrina Carpenter
  • Ticket information available via y100.iheart.com

iHeartMedia and all of its broadcast radio stations are committed to inspiring and creating positive change that improves the lives of others. For the sixth consecutive year, 11 cities of the 2018 iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour Presented by Capital One, including Los Angeles; San Francisco; Minneapolis; Boston; Philadelphia; New York; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Atlanta; Tampa and Miami/Ft. Lauderdale will partner with The Ryan Seacrest Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring today’s youth through entertainment and education focused initiatives. In addition, 106.1 KISS FM’s Jingle Ball in Dallas will work with the Kidd’s Kids program of the Kraddick Foundation, whose mission is to provide hope and happiness by creating beautiful memories for families of children with life-altering or life-threatening conditions. Each event will allocate a portion of ticket sales to its benefiting organization as well as offer exclusive packages through online auctions leading up to the events.

“The Ryan Seacrest Foundation is honored to team up with the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour for another year in an effort to continue to build and support our Seacrest Studios in children’s hospitals across the country,” said Meredith Seacrest, Executive Director & COO of the Ryan Seacrest Foundation. “We value our longstanding partnership with iHeartMedia and are proud to join forces once again to help lift the spirits of patients through our radio and TV programming.”

The iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour Presented by Capital One will stop in Dallas; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Minneapolis; Boston; Philadelphia; New York; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Atlanta; Tampa and Miami/Ft. Lauderdale. Additional proud partners of this year’s national iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour events include: Capital One®, The CW Network, Macy’s and Tic Tac GUM. Multimarket partners include: FUJIFILM instax®, Gravity Blankets, LUMIFY™, Power Crunch Protein Energy Bars, and Splat Rebellious Hair Color.

The iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour is produced by Tom Poleman, Chief Programming Officer for iHeartMedia and John Sykes, President of Entertainment Enterprises for iHeartMedia.

Artists and/or events subject to change or cancellation without notice

About Capital One

At Capital One (www.capitalone.com) we’re on a mission for our customers – bringing them great products, rewards, service, and access to unique and unforgettable experiences they are passionate about.  Capital One is a diversified bank that offers products and services to individuals, small businesses and commercial clients. We use technology, innovation and interaction to provide consumers with products and services to meet their needs. Learn more about Capital One cardholder access perks at capitalone.com/access.

About the Ryan Seacrest Foundation

The Ryan Seacrest Foundation (RSF) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) dedicated to inspiring today’s youth through entertainment and education-focused initiatives. RSF’s first initiative is to build broadcast media centers — Seacrest Studios — within pediatric hospitals for patients to explore the creative realms of radio, television and new media. Founded in 2009, RSF currently has Seacrest Studios at hospitals in Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Nashville, Orange County, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. For more information, visit www.ryanseacrestfoundation.org.​​​

About iHeartMedia

iHeartMedia is the number one audio company in the United States, reaching nine out of 10 Americans every month – and with its quarter of a billion monthly listeners, has a greater reach than any other media company in the U.S. The company’s leadership position in audio extends across multiple platforms including 850 live broadcast stations; streaming music, radio and on demand via its iHeartRadio digital service available across more than 250 platforms and 2,000 devices including smart speakers, digital auto dashes, tablets, wearables, smartphones, virtual assistants, TVs and gaming consoles; through its influencers; social; branded iconic live music events; and podcasts as the #1 commercial podcast publisher globally. iHeartMedia also leads the audio industry in analytics and attribution technology for its marketing partners, using data from its massive consumer base. iHeartMedia is a division of iHeartMedia, Inc. (PINK: IHRTQ). Visit iHeartMedia.com for more company information.

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