This sweet coming age story is as authentic as they come
As the streaming wars continue to rage on, all the streamers are still struggling to roll out their original films. And it wasn’t until this past Oscars where we not only saw history, but some progress for original films on streamers when Apple TV+’s CODA became the first film released by a streamer to win Best Picture. It was a monumental moment for Apple TV+ and other streamers. Netflix and Prime Video have come up short time and time again over the years despite spending so much money on FYC campaigns while Apple TV+ only recently came in and accomplished more than both bigger streamers in just a flash. Right now, Apple TV+ seems to have the best understanding of launching original films, both in theaters and on streaming. Sure, they haven’t always been perfect, as evidenced by last year’s awful film, Cherry, starring Tom Holland and directed by the Russo brothers. But they have been more consistent, and Cha Cha Real Smooth is another winner for the still relatively new streamer that is showing other streamers how it’s done with original films.
Cha Cha Real Smooth tells the story of Andrew (Cooper Raiff), who recently graduated college and is still trying to figure out what he wants to do next in life. Along with that, he’s trying to raise money to join his college girlfriend in Barcelona. Andrew lives at home with his mom (Leslie Mann), stepdad (Brad Garrett), and little brother while working at a food court in the local mall. However, things change when Andrew displays his talents at a local Bar Mitzvah party his little brother attends and then begins to host other local Bar Mitzvah parties. Through these parties, Andrew meets Domino (Dakota Johnson), a single mother, and her autistic daughter, Lola (Vanessa Burghardt), and strikes up friendships with them.
Writer, director, and main actor Raiff tells this coming-of-age story with charm, sincerity, and nuance that will easily win you over. The story is not always pleasant, especially in the back half of the movie. But parts of this film will make you smile more than most other moments you’ve seen in films already released this year. The film’s message of adulthood is also something we can/have related to, and that also will make you feel warmer by the time the credits roll. The sheer optimism radiating from this film feels elusive in a lot of features, both big and small, released these days. And most, if not all, characters we encounter in this film will strike a chord with its viewers, whether it’s relatable or with the struggles each of them encounter. Sure, the story might wind up in a place you didn’t expect, but you’ll come out of it understanding where things end.
The cast from top to bottom is outstanding. In addition to Raiff, whose career should skyrocket after the release of this film, Dakota Johnson gives a strong performance and distances herself from the 50 Shades franchise with great choices like co-starring as Domino here. Mann is wonderful in her supporting position as the mom, along with Brad Garrett as the stepdad, who seems to have disappeared from the spotlight in recent years. But the true standout of Cha Cha Real Smooth is Vanessa Burghardt as Lola, who delivers one of the year’s best performances so far.
Sure, blockbuster sequels are already out in theaters, and the latest film from Disney and Pixar comes out this weekend. But don’t forget about Cha Cha Real Smooth. Thanks to its cast, story, and messaging, Cha Cha Real Smooth is a can’t miss dramedy available in theaters or on Apple TV+ this weekend. I don’t think I have felt this warm about a film since CODA, and I highly doubt you will smile more by watching any other film this weekend.