Julie and the Phantoms
Julie and the Phantoms starts off a little unsteady. The structure of each episode jumps from one plot hurdle to another. This doesn’t really give a lot of time to create layers within the characters or build any dynamics. Some really poignant scenes suffer because of the lack of build-up as certain events move at a significantly fast pace. Each episode is centered around a song that defines the events of that specific episode. While this format works in progressing the narrative, the use of lyrics as exposition becomes quite problematic.
There’s a lot of handholding in the dialogue as well. The ghostly aspect of the characters is used to cover certain story beats in passing conversations. Because of this, the writing gets lazy and reliant on humour rather than storytelling. That in itself doesn’t work, as the awkward attempts to be funny are only amplified by bland acting and off-timed delivery. However, there are moments where the jokes are well-written, and the actors get the timing just right. These are the moments that really spark the series’ potential.
The musical numbers are really the secret weapon of Julie and the Phantoms. The songs themselves are heartwarming and carry the weight of the entire episode. The scenes that involve music playing are better shot. It occasionally falters due to some of the actors’ overexaggerated and cartoony facial expressions and movements. But the cinematography is on a whole new level in terms of adding tone, personality and nuance to the narrative of the lyrics. The editing and camera movements are given a fresh composition as they interact with the lights and colours to create atmosphere.
Julie and the Phantoms is basically a better live-action rendition of the animated musical series Jem and the Holograms. There’s a lot to be curious about and a lot of interesting aspects about the plot itself, they’re just not very well executed. All of the wonderful things you can find in the series often fall flat because of the weak dialogue and shaky acting. It is reminiscent of High School Musical (especially the third film), but it’s more cut from the same cloth of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, because of its vibrant, youthful actors and energy in the music to wrap the darker aspects of its story.
Julie and the Phantoms is released on Netflix on 10th September 2020.
Watch the trailer for Julie and the Phantoms here: