World’s Best – Now Streaming on Disney +

(L-R): Utkarsh Ambudkar as Suresh and Manny Magnus as Prem in WORLD'S BEST, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Ben Mark Holzberg. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I am used to seeing films geared toward every possible audience. As a critic, it’s part of the job, but I find it more pleasurable to see a movie with someone in the target demographic. Disney’s new family comedy, a coming-of-age story starring Manny Magnus in a breakout role, entertained me and my 12-year-old granddaughter greatly. World’s Best’s hip-hop foundation and math nerd vibe make for a fun frolic through 7th-grade angst.

Magnus stars as Prem Patel, a math genius whose father (Utkarsh Ambudkar) died of cancer when he was five. His mother, Priya (Punam Patel), even after seven years, doesn’t like to talk about it, and so, armed with only a box of memorabilia, he ventures out to find himself and learn about his father. Ambudkar appears in flashbacks and as part of Prem’s imagination, and these interactions spark Prem’s desire to be more than a mathlete. He wants to rap, just like his father. Of course, bullies try to bring him down, old friendships are challenged, and new friendships form.

Actor and rapper Ambudkar co-wrote and co-stars in this family-friendly hip-hop musical, and he and director Roshan Sethi have created a super simple and sugary sweet story about a middle-schooler who defies expectations and fights to stand out in a world that is tough on nerds. Wonderfully, the crew avoids many of this genre’s traditional go-to story elements and chooses instead to let Prem fail but ultimately to succeed in finding his past and securing his place in the growing-up food chain.

World’s Best is fun and colorful. Sethi’s characters are, in some ways, typical, but in others, they are surprisingly substantial and wholly relatable. The musical sequences delight and inspire with their lighthearted playfulness. My granddaughter loved the movie and had much to say about its themes. The messages are clear and relevant, even if some warranted more exploration. The film excels in its catchy hip-hop sequences, with inventive, original music penned by Ambudkar and other classics. Ambudkar and the young Magnus are fun to watch as they perform together, and their chemistry and smiles are contagious. Overall, World’s Best deserves a 4 out of 5 stars. Magnus should earn special accolades for his multilevel breakout performance.

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