Thirteen-year-old Nate Foster is an unpopular Midwestern kid who entertains vivid fantasies of becoming a big Broadway musical star. In the meantime, however, Nate can’t even get a decent role in his middle school’s drama productions, getting cast as a tree in the chorus instead of the lead role he craves. However, when he and his best friend Litty mastermind a daring trip to New York City, without their parents’ knowledge, to audition for Lilo and Stitch: The Musical, Nate may be on the verge of fulfilling his lifelong dream. But first, he has to overcome a series of comical obstacles that threaten his Broadway adventure with disaster at every farcical turn.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “Better Nate Than Ever is a lighthearted and playful musical comedy, filled with showy sets, catchy songs and dreams of being on Broadway. Director and writer Tim Federle is also the author of the semi-autobiographical book, which helps it stay true to the spirit of the story.” Sydney S. adds, “It captured me from the first few minutes. If you’re into Broadway and performing arts, Better Nate Than Ever is for you. If you’re not, this movie has a lot of comedy, and I’m sure you won’t regret watching it.” See their full review and cast interviews below.

Better Nate Than Ever

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Based on the book with the same name, Better Nate Than Ever is a lighthearted and playful musical comedy, filled with showy sets, catchy songs and dreams of being on Broadway. Director and writer Tim Federle is also the author of the semi-autobiographical book, which helps it stay true to the spirit of the story.

Nate Foster (Rueby Wood) is a quirky 13-year-old thespian who loves the theater, but his small town in Pennsylvania doesn’t satisfy his dreams of the stage. When his parents go on a weekend trip out of town, he and his friend, Libby (Aria Brooks), run away to New York City to audition for Lilo and Stitch: The Musical on Broadway. Will Nate get the part, or will he be a bust and never see his dreams again?

This movie is very personal to Tim Federle, the director and writer of both the book and movie, as it is an introspective love letter to himself and his childhood. He wants to show the world a glimpse into what it’s like to be in the theater. And as a bit of a theater kid myself, I love how it feels so accurate in how it shows the processes the characters go through, like auditions. Rueby Wood, the star of the movie, really shines because of his bubbly personality and beautiful voice. I also love the performances of supporting actors Aria Brooks (Libby) and Lisa Kudrow (Aunt Heidi). Aria seems to care so much about Nate while also finding her true passions. Libby and Nate have such a strong and genuine bond in this movie. Aunt Heidi, the outcast of the family, flawlessly portrays Nate’s supportive aunt and secret idol. The sets have a perfect and distinctive contrast between that of the boring too-small-of-a-town in Pennsylvania, the big skyscrapers and bustling activity of New York City and the colorful destinations of Nate’s dreams in his songs. The New York and Pennsylvania venues are very realistic and tangible, while the sets of the songs are bright and colorful and straight out of a play.  

The messages of Better Nate Than Ever are to follow your dreams, as long as you are being rational, and never give up because it produces great fruit. The importance of friendship is also a key theme. This movie does depict some risky behaviors such as teens running away from home and teens having a house party while parents are away.  The film also has some bullying and adult references.

I give Better Nate Than Ever 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18, plus adults. This movie releases exclusively on Disney+ on April 1, 2022.

Better Nate Than Ever

By Sydney S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Better Nate Than Ever is a remarkable film that, at some points, is quite the musical. It captured me from the first few minutes. If you’re into Broadway and performing arts, Better Nate Than Ever is for you. If you’re not, this movie has a lot of comedy, and I’m sure you won’t regret watching it.

The film takes us on a journey from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, to the bustling streets of New York City. After being disappointed in the school’s musical’s cast list, Nate (Rueby Wood) turns toward his best friend Libby (Aria Brooks) who announces the auditions of Lilo and Stitch: The Musical, on Broadway. Without hesitation, Libby decides to sneak away with Nate to New York City in order to audition. Nate is revived with hope, and agrees. With the help of the people around him, what new adventures will Nate experience?

The lead characters are Nate, Libby, Anthony (Joshua Bassett) and Aunt Heidi (Lisa Kudrow). Nate and Libby make an irresistible team—I can’t think of a better best friend duo. Furthermore, Tim Federle’s work as both the director and writer (he adapted his own novel) is phenomenal, as is the work of the other producers and crew—they made a masterpiece. The casting is well done and the actors absolutely live up to their characters. My favorite part is when Nate calms his nerves in his audition. It was truly inspiring, and I got teary-eyed. This movie’s music is extraordinary. After watching it, the songs were stuck in my head the entire day. The highly talented Rueby Wood and Aria Brooks have angelic voices.

One message of Better Nate Than Ever is to pursue your dreams and never give up, especially when people try to shoot you down. Another lesson is to learn to, as Aunt Heidi proclaimed, “find your light.”  There is some bullying in the beginning, though there isn’t any bad language.. Kids could possibly imitate running away from their households, like Libby and Nate do.

I give Better Nate Than Ever 5 out of 5 stars, and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. Better Nate Than Ever begins streaming exclusively April 1, 2022 on Disney+.

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