Skip to Content

Better Nate Than Ever Movie Review: Inspiring Kids To Be Themselves

Better Nate Than Ever is a super cute musical movie that teaches kids to embrace who they are inside, no matter what others might think of them. 

BETTER NATE THAN EVER movie review

Rueby Wood as Nate in 20th Century Studios’ BETTER NATE THAN EVER, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Better Nate Than Ever is a new Disney+ Original film that is based off of the book by the same name and is a massive love letter to Broadway. This movie is adorable, touching, and is sure to be a hit with pre-teens, teens, and families as it explores building confidence in kids, while at the same time teaching parents to make sure they always support their children. Kids around the world are going to be inspired to be themselves after watching it, and that is largely in part to the incredible stars of the film. In true Disney fashion, be sure to have those tissues handy because there are some tear jerking moments.

This film stars newcomer Rueby Wood, who absolutely shines in this film. This kid was born to be a star — you will see exactly what I mean once you watch the film. He can sing, dance, and act, while making you smile from ear to ear and simultaneously bawl your eyes out. He plays Nate, who is completely unafraid to be himself, even though he embarrasses his older brother, Anthony (played by Joshua Bassett). This character is beyond inspiring for this very reason, and Wood captures that perfectly.

When his parents go out of town for their anniversary he sneaks away to New York City with his best friend Libby (Aria Brooks) so that they can try out for a Lilo and Stich Broadway musical. This is Nate’s life long dream, but if he can’t even land a role in the school play, how will he make it in the big city?

BETTER NATE THAN EVER review

Rueby Wood as Nate in 20th Century Studios’ BETTER NATE THAN EVER, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Of course since this is a movie, almost nothing goes according to plan. Over the course of the weekend Nate goes through a LOT, and is forced to fully embrace who he is, and what he wants to do with his life. Lucky for him, he has some great support from friends and family — including his estranged Aunt Heidi, who is played by Lisa Kudrow.

The story beats don’t really give us anything new, and at times Better Nate Than Ever feels like several movies we have seen before. While the message is one that shines through in most family films, it is an important lesson nonetheless. It is the performances here that make this movie stand above the rest, and not only from Wood.

Joshua Bassett isn’t in the first half of the movie a lot, but once his character meets up with Nate, the two of them have some truly touching moments together. This is where I say to have those tissues in hand. In an effort to keep away from spoilers I won’t go into much detail, but there is a conversation between the two of them that immediately brought tears to my eyes, and made me want to embrace them both. Bassett is wonderful in this scene, as is Wood. It is easily my favorite scene of the entire film, and one that I think will stick with many people, for a very long time.

BETTER NATE THAN EVER joshua bassett

Joshua Bassett as Anthony and Lisa Kudrow as Heidi in 20th Century Studios’ BETTER NATE THAN EVER, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Lisa Kudrow is also great in this movie. She is a very supportive Aunt and I love hearing the way that she talks about Nate. It goes to show that everyone needs that cheerleader in their life, and you just might find them in the least expected place. Kudrow’s face beams with pride for Nate so much so that it feels like this is a real, true pride that she has watching Wood’s performance. Wood, like Nate, is completely unafraid to be himself. Truly an inspiration for kids everywhere.

Heidi has her own sub-plots, one of which involves her sister, which makes things more interesting plot wise, but takes a bit away from the core story because it doesn’t go enough into it. While I do wish this was explored deeper, I can appreciate what we were given. Having a sister myself, and having had our moments where we fight, this was easy to relate to. And yes, I called her to catch up as soon as the movie ended.

BETTER NATE THAN EVER lisa kudrow

Lisa Kudrow as Heidi in 20th Century Studios’ BETTER NATE THAN EVER, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Heidi is also a struggling artist herself, which is why she runs into Nate at the auditions. Even though the two do not know each other that well, they have a lot in common which allows them to connect on a deeper level. I have to admit this almost instant connection doesn’t make a lot of sense at first. Considering the time frame of her fight with her sister, I am surprised they would even recognize each other. 

This is one of the small issues I had with the movie because it just doesn’t seem to make sense. However, it is very easy to overlook and doesn’t take away from the film as a whole. Especially when it is clear that the connection these two have is because they are both artists at heart.

BETTER NATE THAN EVER review

Aria Brooks as Libby and Rueby Wood as Nate in 20th Century Studios’ BETTER NATE THAN EVER, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Aria Brooks plays Nate’s best friend Libby, and it is clear as day that her and Rueby Wood must have become instant friends on set. They have such great chemistry together that reminds me a lot of my friendships. The real ones, that make it through everything and anything. These two are so great on screen together, but I especially love the sass and wit that Brooks brings to Libby. She delivers a lot of the comedic relief here, as does Bassett.

Brooks will be joining forces with Director / Writer Tim Federle again in the third season of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series which has me thrilled because this girl can sing, and she can act. She is a force on screen and has such a demanding presence. Mark my words she will go far. 

BETTER NATE THAN EVER

Rueby Wood as Nate in 20th Century Studios’ BETTER NATE THAN EVER, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

My biggest issue though is one that I just could not get over. Nate is very clearly gay in this movie, but it rubbed me the wrong way that he never came out and said it. Instead he says that he is “not like that” when his best friend, who is a girl, touches his hand and expresses her interest. Words like “different” are used and “no matter who he chooses to love” is said. This feels like a cop out by Disney, and that they are too afraid to put the word gay in Better Nate Than Ever for fear of upsetting a certain group of people. News flash Disney, those people probably aren’t going to be watching this movie anyways.

There are several truly massive musical numbers here — and each one gets better than the last. My favorite is Nate’s final performance, but they all have something special about them. The one pictured above, where Nate has an impromptu performance on the streets of New York, will have viewers tapping their toes and singing along. It is this scene right there that proves Rueby Wood is a powerhouse, and he is here to stay. 

This film bounces between full on Broadway musical style numbers, and smaller, more intimate performances. When Nate envisions himself on Broadway, the audience is treated to some truly magical, powerhouse performances. Rueby Wood isn’t the only one with an incredible voice in Better Nate Than Ever though, when he and Aria Brooks sing About To Go Awf during the credits, they both shine.

BETTER NATE THAN EVER rueby wood

Rueby Wood as Nate in 20th Century Studios’ BETTER NATE THAN EVER, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Overall Better Nate Than Ever is a movie that is made for families and pre-teens / young teens. It is for fans of musical theater, and for those who want to help build confidence in themselves. When you take the audience into consideration, you can’t help but realize how truly special this film is. With a great cast, who all work well together, and a lot of fun adventures, this adorable movie is sure to help kids realize that they too can shine, if they just embrace who they are.

A truly special film that inspires kids to be themselves. A love letter to Broadway and theater kids everywhere. Get ready to have that soundtrack stuck in your head 24/7. Rueby Wood & Aria Brooks shine!

In the interest of full disclosure, I know Rueby Wood and his family well. They live in my small upstate New York town and his mother teaches music to my children. So seeing him on the screen was extremely exciting, and it is possible some of my love from the movie comes from that. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

NEXT: Cheaper By The Dozen Delivers An Incredibly Important Message

BETTER NATE THAN EVER movie poster

About Better Nate Than Ever

In “Better Nate Than Ever,” 13-year-old Nate Foster has big Broadway dreams. There’s only one problem — he can’t even land a part in the school play. But when his parents leave town, Nate and his best friend Libby sneak off to the Big Apple for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prove everyone wrong. A chance encounter with Nate’s long-lost Aunt Heidi turns his journey upside-down, and together they must learn that life’s greatest adventures are only as big as your dreams. Based on the award-winning novel.

BETTER NATE THAN EVER is premiering exclusively on Disney+ on April 1st.