With the summer holidays heading toward the finish line, and the younger members of the household still needing a bit of entertainment before heading back to school, you may be looking for a movie to keep them occupied. If this sounds like you, then you might want to point them in the direction of 13: The Musical – an all-singing, all-dancing, coming-of-age movie, which has recently been added to Netflix.
Based on the Broadway musical of the same name, and directed by Tamra Davis, 13: The Musical follows the story of a young Jewish boy called Evan, who on the cusp of entering his teenage years, is faced with a number of changes in his life following the breakdown of his parents’ marriage.
In the film, when his parents split up, Evan and his mother relocate from New York to start a new life in Indiana. They move in with Evan’s grandmother, Evan enrols at a new school, and over the course of the summer he makes a new friend in Patrice.
However, come term time, Evan discovers Patrice isn’t considered one of the cool kids and this is not helping him to expand his social circle. As the new face in town, he also desperately wants to fit in with the popular kids, and believes the best way to do this is to invite them all to his impending Bar mitzvah.
But things don’t run smoothly, and soon Evan finds himself falling out with Patrice and alienating himself from everyone else. He also has to deal with issues relating to his parents’ divorce, and the knowledge that he is becoming a teenager and therefore taking his first few steps towards adulthood.
13: The Musical stars Eli Golden, Gabriella Uhl, Josh Peck, Debra Messing, and Rhea Perlman. The film is a bright, breezy, and colourful piece of bubble gum fluff, filled with plenty of musical numbers, a light smattering of humour, and a likeable young cast.
Now, before I go any further, I should say that 13: The Musical is not the sort of film that adults are going to get a great deal of enjoyment out of. As the title makes pretty clear, this movie is aimed at a young audience, specifically the ‘tween-to-teen’ age-range.
If you do not fall into this category, then you probably won’t want to watch 13: The Musical. This is fine – there are plenty of other movies you should spend your time on instead, such as Top Gun: Maverick, Nope, Prey, and Thor: Love & Thunder, amongst others.
However, if you do have kids, then 13: The Musical is very much a film for them. Will it blow their socks off and change their outlook on the world? No, but it will provide them with an hour-and-a-half of entertainment, and have them dancing and singing along too.
13: The Musical is an inoffensive, easy-to-watch, toe-tappin’ picture. It is the Netflix equivalent of a Disney Channel movie, essentially following in the footsteps of films such as High School Musical (2006) and the like.
In fact, if High School Musical is now deemed too dated for your kids to watch – it is 16 years old after all – then 13: The Musical is a suitable replacement. It follows the same kind of tone and vibe as the aforementioned Disney picture, and feels as if it too has been made with its heart in the right place.
13: The Musical also benefits from some decent tunes, including ‘A Little More Homework’, ‘Tell Her’, and the stand-out track, ‘The Bloodmaster’. This song might have an odd name, but it makes sense within the context of the film, and is the most infectious tune in the whole movie.
All of these songs are cheesy, but they are enjoyable. The tunes help the characters sing their way from A to B, and with the exception of a couple of duds, they work fine.
I’ve said this before about musicals, but it is always worth repeating: A musical lives and dies on its songs. If the songs are bad, it doesn’t matter what else the movie serves up, it simply won’t work.
13: The Musical’s songs are decent. And because the songs land as intended, the rest of the film is given a leg up too.
In terms of the cast, everyone in the movie does everything asked of them, and the young players in particular perform admirably. A great deal of the movie rests on the shoulders of relative newcomers, including lead star Eli Golden in the role of Evan, and they all shine.
The youthful cast also get a nice bit of support from the likes of Rhea Perlman and Debra Messing, who pop up from time-to-time to fulfil the adult presence in the story. Perlman in particular is great as Evan’s grandmother, who offers a few wise words here and there, along with a couple of mildly humorous lines.
I’ll go back to what I said earlier in this review, to reiterate that 13: The Musical is not for adults – it doesn’t push any envelopes, doesn’t offer any new insights into being a teen, nor is it written with the older generation in mind. This is a film squarely aimed at a specific crowd, so don’t expect it to work for you.
However, for the right audience (i.e. tweens), it is absolutely fine for what it is. And if it brings a bit of joy to your kids, as the summer draws to a close, then there’s nothing wrong with that at all.