A gifted young songwriter finds who she truly is when thrust into the glamorous and seedy side of fame in director Lisa Arnold’s teen drama, Into The Spotlight. High school junior Laura (Kate Larson) should be living the ideal middle America life. She has three very close friends, David (Justin Sterner), Riley (Marisa Lynae Hampton), and the good-looking Ben (Raphael Ruggero). Her dad, William (Kevin Sizemore), is a drummer for a popular rock band who’s about to go on tour again. Though supportive of his career, Laura’s mother, Kim (Leigh-Allyn Baker), is frustrated that William is never around chasing after his childhood dream. It doesn’t help that Kim is a busy divorce attorney.
One morning, Laura decides to play hookey from school, and Ben catches her. The two decide to head into town with their newfound free time. After a quick dance number and ample selfies in an antique store, she discovers an old-fashioned microphone that inexplicably glows.
Days later, the talented Laura pulls a song together for her friends to perform at the school’s talent show, produced by the principal (Victoria Jackson), with Riley on vocals and David and Ben backing her up. They can’t lose until the school’s passive-aggressive bully, Violet (Isabelle Almoyan), spikes Riley’s good luck cupcake laced with laxatives. The stage-fraught Laura is forced to take Riley’s place, and with the help of the magic microphone that does more than just auto-tune, Laura becomes a viral singing sensation.
“…Violet spikes Riley’s good luck cupcake laced with laxatives. The stage-fraught Laura is forced to take Riley’s place…”
As someone currently raising a teenager, I’m well aware of the shows and movies she watches. Into The Spotlight falls right in the camp of Disney Channel. On the negative side, there’s a lot of story, almost too much. Laura’s parents are heading toward divorce. She’s trying to find herself in songwriting while being integral to her quartet of friends. Laura also must stave off the attacks of Violet, the bully. Now add the magic microphone and being thrust into the spotlight after a tragic event surrounding her parents’ conflict. Laura decides to live the rock star life with all the trappings of being a non-stop superstar driven by her social media presence and a greedy manager, Lee (Karen Abercrombie), who runs her life minute-by-minute. The story is dense and really needs to be stripped down.
I’ll admit. My criticism is incredibly academic as I measure how much story is too much story. The reality is Into The Spotlight is a fun teen/pre-teen movie that will appeal to a family-friendly audience. Compared to anything the Disney Channel has put out over the decades, this stands toe-to-toe in its quality acting, camera work, sound design, etc. The production values ultimately win out here, especially for teen family-friendly entertainment.
Let’s be real. I’m not exactly the audience for Into The Spotlight. I like my dramas gritty and brutal while examining the dark recesses of humanity. This is not it. But watching the film, I can recognize a well-produced drama with a quality crew behind it. It is safe for families and teaches valuable lessons about family, friendship, and what’s truly important in life.
"…valuable lessons about family, friendship, and what's truly important in life."