- Jennifer Green
Review: "Better Nate Than Ever"
This is a film for every kid who's ever felt different, imagined their name in lights, or was sure they were cut out for bigger things but hadn't yet discovered what they were.
Nate, the titular character of the charming Better Nate Than Ever, and best friend Libby are so sure they're meant for more than their Pittsburgh middle-school lives that they're willing to take chances and even put themselves in potential danger to pursue their dreams.
What makes this movie special is the single-mindedness with which a 13-year-old main character follows his passion, and the innocence and sweetness the story retains despite portraying realistic life challenges.
Nate (charismatic newcomer Wood) is delightfully irrepressible. The script and direction capture this in ways both big and small -- his Axe body spray moment after maddening his brother with song and dance at 7:30 in the morning, his triumphant look upon returning to complete a purchase in dimes and quarters earned busking in Times Square, his riveting monologue from Designing Women.
Not every scene lands perfectly, and curiously, his first big imagined musical number, meant to be Golden Age Hollywood fabulous, has less spark than his emotional, climactic singing audition.
When the director tells him that musicals allow us to say the things we can't actually say in real life, we totally get it -- thanks to Nate.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.