I thought I was really scraping the bottom of the Netflix barrel when I agreed to watch Floor is Lava with my husband, but it turned out that the new game show, based on that game we played with our siblings when we were kids, is a lot of good, silly fun. It is basically an escape room, but instead of a floor, there is a pool of “lava” that players disappear under if they fall in. If you have found your peak of COVID-19 boredom, it is definitely worth a shot. Fortunately, it did not take long for me to find something even slightly less ridiculous to enjoy.
New on Netflix, Feel the Beat is a feel-good dance movie about a self-centered dancer, April (Sofia Carson), who moves back home to small-town Wisconsin after she ruins a big Broadway audition. Soon after her return, April is convinced by her former teacher, Miss Barb (Donna Lynne Champlin), to coach a ragtag group of girls for a dance competition. Sensing that the Teacher Feature portion of the competition could help her ruined career, April agrees to help.
There’s a romantic element to this movie that is hardly worth commenting on. Much more important are the relationships between April and her students (Kai Zen, Eva Hauge, Carina Battrick, Lidya Jewett, Justin Allan, Shiloh Nelson, Shaylee Mansfield, Sadie Lapidus, and Johanna Colon). Also, the students as a group are fiercely devoted to each other. There is a lot that is cliched about this movie—I guessed many of the plot points well in advance—but so much of the film is positive and endearing. The group of dancers features an okay diversity of body types, and also includes a girl who is deaf. The whole team signs with her without it ever becoming a plot point, and that was great to see. The whole production looks and feels like a made for TV Disney movie, but for what it is, it is a really fun watch.
Also worth checking out is Spelling the Dream, a Netflix documentary by Sam Rega about the dominance of Indian Americans in spelling bees, particularly the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee. If you have ever watched and enjoyed the peculiarly compelling Scripps bee, this documentary is a must-see. The film explores the history of Indian immigration to the United States and how it came to be that Indian American kids have come to be so successful in the Bee. If you have never watched the Bee, you are missing out, but congratulations on not being a nerd, I guess.
On Hulu, Padma Laksmi’s Taste the Nation looked appealing, as the popular Top Chef host travels around the country, learning about food subcultures and what makes American cuisine. It features travel and restaurants that look even better during these COVID-19 days, and the food looks amazing, since I am truly, deeply tired of my own cooking. Despite these attractions, the show is not very interesting. It is too polished, even when Padma eats messy burritos. The show tries to analyze a complicated food culture, but fails to be very engaging.
Instead, I recommend Keith Eats the Menu on the YouTube channel The Try Guys. On that show, Keith Habersberger travels the country ordering everything on the menu at popular chain restaurants and reviewing each item. This show is as lowbrow as Taste the Nation is polished, especially since by the end of each episode, Keith usually is food-drunk, but it has made me laugh harder than much has in months. Give it a try.