If you’ve ever had to sit though a school recital by someone else’s children, watching “Next Level” will be a familiar experience. This teen musical comedy is set at a girls performing arts camp, but it never convinces the audience of anyone’s talent.
Kelly (Lauren Orlando) gets a last-minute spot in the Next Level program, where she competes against fellow dancers and singers. Bratty reigning champ Cindy (Emily Skinner) is her biggest rival for the title of Miss Next, previously held by pop star Jasmine Joel (Chloe Lukasiak), who serves as a mentor to the younger girls.
Teens may seek out the film for its stars — including social media princess Orlando, “Andy Mack” actress Skinner or “Dance Moms” vet Lukasiak — but grown-ups won’t get the draw. “Next Level” is filled with forgettable songs, but the bad lip-synching shows that singing is just an afterthought to the dancing. Even the dancing isn’t that great, not that you can tell through the choppy editing and sloppy camerawork.
“A Cinderella Story” producer Ilyssa Goodman directs, but the film has the rhythm of an amateur hoofer. There’s no sense of the passage of time, and the montage that should introduce the audience to the girls’ talent simply blasts a song over the soundtrack, rather than letting us hear them. “Next Level” is no better between its songs; the shallow, inconsistent characterization in Byron Kavanagh’s script isn’t enough to give young viewers a performer to root for or identify with.
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Playing: Starts Sept. 6, Laemmle Glendale, also on VOD