Julie and the Phantoms, Netflix’s newest original series created by Dan Cross and David Hodge, was released last week. The show is an adaptation of the Brazilian tv series Julie e os Fantasmas. The show centers around Julie (Madison Reyes), a musically-gifted high school student who is dealing with the death of her mother. Her mother is the reason that Julie fell in love with music, but since her death, Julie has shown no interest in it. Things take a major turn when she cleans her mother’s music studio and finds a demo disc from a band called Sunset Curves. When she starts playing the disc, three of the four members of the band magically appear in front of her. They introduce themselves as Luke (Charlie Gillespie), Alex (Owen Joyner), and Reggie (Jeremy Shada) while also explaining that the three of them died the night before they were going to play the biggest show of their lives. Seeing this as their second chance, they convince Julie to form a new band. However, they quickly discover that not everyone wants to see them succeed.
I was immediately hooked on the premise of Julie and the Phantoms from watching the trailer a few weeks ago. What made things even better was knowing that the film brought on Kenny Ortega as executive producer. As soon as I saw that in the trailer, I knew exactly what kind of film this would be. Having three ghosts show up and completely change the life of a high school student is definitely a unique premise. It made for some very interesting interactions between band members and some rather comedic moments. For instance, Julie’s brother (Sonny Bustamante) wanted to prove that their house was haunted. Julie’s bandmates pulled predictable pranks to convince him, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t funny. The premise also brought many heart-warming moments that made the film more special than I anticipated.
One of the biggest surprises from Julie and the Phantoms is the character of Julie. Yes, she’s the main character of the show but there’s also so much more to her. The chemistry that she has with her bandmates from the start of the series is fantastic. It often feels as if she’s played with them way before the events of the show. On top of that, the natural progression for her to see the three ghost musicians as her friends were done well. The first season was only nine episodes, which could’ve raised some issues, but enough was done with her character to make that connection with them. Reyes’ natural charisma and singing talent really stood out, making her character one that audiences will definitely root for. It’s also clear that she had a strong relationship with her mother, but I just wish the show would’ve expanded more on this. I hope more is revealed if the show is renewed for another season. What stands out from anything else is that she’s a Latina in a prominent role of a Netflix series that isn’t rooted in something related to something negative.
The band was another highlight from Julie and the Phantoms. It’s clear from the moment that Luke, Reggie, and Alex show up on screen that their chemistry as a group is great. What helps is that all the actors seem as if they can play the instruments they have to for the film. It’s distracting whenever actors take on musician roles but aren’t able to pull off looking like natural musicians. Their opening performance shows the kind of music they play but they also aren’t afraid to change their sound. When Julie joins, the band welcomes her in without any real issues at hand. I’m glad that there weren’t any complications about adding a new member. I gave a lot more time to focus on them growing as friends and getting recognition as a group.
Aside from the main protagonists, I was mesmerized by Caleb Covington (Cheyenne Jackson), the mysterious figure who shows interest in the three boys. More is revealed in the latter half of the season, but there’s still something about him that immediately demands attention. Most of it comes from his extravagant wardrobe and mannerisms, but I couldn’t help but want to learn more about him. I haven’t seen Jackson in any other role, but his performance was both charismatic and frightening. It wasn’t frightening in a traditional sense of scary, but in a way that let others know not to mess with him. I hope that more is revealed about his character if the show gets renewed for a new season. He’s someone that could very well come out as a fan favorite.
I was thoroughly impressed by the music in Julie and the Phantoms. All of the songs included in each episode had to do with what was happening while also being full of emotion. For instance, the first time that Julie sings after her mother’s death, the background begins to light up and her bandmates are listening to her sing. The performances for each song only elevate the mood of the song itself. Most are simple performances, but the level of energy from the band is what carries them forward. It shows me that the writers and characters cared for each song and wanted to put on the best performances. It also demonstrates the characters’ passion for music and the way they use it to deal with whatever issues they have going on. All of the songs included in the first season will be going on my Spotify playlist.
One of my main issues with Julie and the Phantoms is the lack of focus on Julie’s latinidad. I understand that the main focus of the show’s first season was seeing Julie get back into music and the boys dealing with being ghosts. I would’ve liked some of the focus was put on Julie’s identity as a Latina. There are a few exchanges that happen between Julie and her family members in Spanish, but that’s as far as the show went to showing anything from her identity as a Latina. It’s something that season two could focus on if it gets renewed. I say this because as Mexican, I was overjoyed when I found out that the main character of the show was a Latina. It’s an incredible step for representation, especially since her character isn’t rooted in something negative or stereotypical.
Overall, I really enjoyed watching Julie and the Phantoms. The premise of the series wasn’t only unique but it also made the film more special. While I was watching the show, I was suddenly brought back to when I was watching High School Musical when it first premiered. I hadn’t felt so excited about a musical show as I did for Julie and the Phantoms since watching HSMTMTS back in November. I really do hope the show is renewed because of how great the characters but also it ended on a major cliffhanger.
Julie and the Phantoms is available to stream now, exclusively on Netflix.
Julie and the Phantoms