into the spotlight

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General Information

Director(s) Lisa Arnold
Screenplay By Kate Larson
Based On N/A
Date Released (Video On Demand) September 1, 2023
Genre(s) Young Adult
Film Length 1 Hour, 30  Minutes
Content Rating Not Rated
Noted Characters and Cast
Laura Banks Kate Larson
Ben Raphael Ruggero
Riley Marisa Lynae Hampton
David Justin Sterner
Kim Banks Leigh-Allyn Baker

What Is “Into the Spotlight” Rated And Why?

“Into the Spotlight” is not rated, but it includes mature themes about growing up, family loss, and change. The movie can be considered a family film. 

Film Summary

This content contains pertinent spoilers. Also, images and text in this post may contain affiliate links. If a purchase is made from those sites, we may earn money or products from the company.

“Into the Spotlight” is one of those movies you would randomly stumble upon playing on the Disney Channel growing up. The movie has the key ingredients of those made-for-TV movies: an insecure teen in high school, music numbers, family drama, and a touch of magic that gives the protagonist powers. Directed by Lisa Arnold and written by Kate Larson, “Into the Spotlight” is cheerful and sunny even in its darkest plot points, but the movie spreads itself thin and doesn’t explore its key ingredients in enough detail.

Laura Banks (Kate Larson) is a high schooler who loves to write music. But after years of watching her musician father be adored in the spotlight, Laura prefers to be behind the curtain. When her high school announces a talent show, Laura’s friends Riley (Marisa Lynae Hampton), David (Justin Sterner), and Ben (Raphael Ruggero) plan to perform as a band. But at the last minute, Riley gets sick, and Laura reluctantly agrees to take her place as the lead singer. Laura uses a magical microphone she found at a thrift store that gives her the ability to become a fearless performer, and her singing instantly goes viral.

After initial disapproval from her mom (Leigh-Allyn Baker), Laura gets a chance to follow her dreams and become a pop star after her father’s agent wants to sign her. But in order to make it big, Laura has to start making compromises with who she is. Laura’s longtime friend and romantic interest, Ben, is especially dismayed about Laura’s transformation and grows suspicious of the microphone. In the end, Laura’s path to fame at the expense of her past is a choice only she can make.

into the spotlight 1
Kate Larson and Raphael Ruggero star as Laura and Ben in “Into the Spotlight” (directed by Lisa Arnold, 2023)

“Into the Spotlight” is harmless fun that parents can trust their kids to watch alone or even together. The movie is devoid of any debauchery or anything too heartbreaking, but by making the movie especially wholesome, it takes the impact out of Laura’s transformation and emotional beats. Disney Channel musicals have more edge than “Into the Spotlight,” which is fine, but for a movie written by a teen and that takes place within a high school, I’m not sure what teens in high school can relate.

Other Noteworthy Information

  1. Writer and Star Kate Larson was reportedly 15 years old when she wrote the script for “Into the Spotlight.”
  2. Much of the supporting cast has worked together on the movie “Lifemark.”

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

Laura Banks

Laura is the shy daughter of a popular musician. Laura can sing, but she’s been reluctant to step into the spotlight for most of her life. Her talent and luck change when she finds a magical microphone that gives her the ability to sing better than she ever has before.

Ben

Everyone knows Ben likes Laura. Ben would even voluntarily be on a trivia show about Laura’s life. While he’s been a supportive friend to Laura, their friendship is threatened when Laura becomes a star.

Riley and David

Riley and David are Laura’s other two close friends. Riley is rebellious and initially sang in the talent show band but was overcome with sickness just before the show. David is a goofball and the drummer of the band. Together, Riley and David are friends who are blunt but loyal to Laura.

Kim Banks

Kim is Laura’s mom, and she is initially the most hesitant about Laura’s stardom. Kim has endured a marriage where her own husband has been absent due to music tours, and she doesn’t want the same life for her daughter.

Review

Our Rating: Mixed (Divisive) 

Who Is This For?

People who enjoy sweet coming-of-age stories or, in the past, have enjoyed Disney Channel’s family-friendly movie-of-the-week programs. “Into the Spotlight” can be watched with family and is an ode to any girl who has wanted to sing her heart out.

Into the Spotlight 3
Laura (Kate Larson) discovering the magical microphone.

Highlights

An Earnest Film that Conveys a Kind World

With Kate Larson writing and starring and director Lisa Arnold emphasizing the joy within the story, “Into the Spotlight” is comfort food with a message. The movie says, “Follow your heart when chasing your dreams!” Larson and Arnold are able to practice what they preach in this passion project, where everyone is ultimately kind to one another, even to the clueless principal (Victoria Jackson), who makes many blunders in her announcements. This is a world where teens aren’t cynical or ruthless to each other, they just laugh and shake their heads.

On The Fence

Odd Pace with a Long Start and Abrupt Finish

Laura’s journey to take center stage with her magical microphone happens halfway through the movie, meaning no one goes “Into the Spotlight” for 45 minutes. The first half is bogged down by Laura and Ben’s flirty montages, music numbers, and Victoria Jackson’s principal ramblings, which do little to move the plot forward. The second half introduces a potential second love interest but wraps up so quickly with another musical number that you’ll feel something is missing.

Never Fully Explores Its Premise

Ben laments to Laura that her transformation into a pop star isn’t who she is, but the audience doesn’t get to fully see how Laura’s transformation is unhealthy or who she was beforehand. We know she has a magic microphone, but what it does or how it changes her isn’t clear. The emotional beats and magical elements come and go within ten minutes, and while the characters sing happily together by the end, I’m not sure what was at stake from the start.

Recommendations

If you like this movie, we recommend:

  1. Pitch Perfect or Pitch Perfect 2
  2. High School Musical
  3. A Star is Born

Check out our movies page for our latest movie reviews and recommendations.

FAQs

Answers to some questions you may have regarding this movie:

The Reason The Movie Is Named “Into the Spotlight”

The name “Into the Spotlight” comes from the protagonist experiencing fame for the first time.

Does “Into the Spotlight” Setup A Sequel or Prequel?

Yes! Laura throws the magical microphone into the lake and firmly states that she doesn’t need it. Yet an anonymous hand grabs the microphone from the lake, and the screen reads, “To Be Continued…”

into the spotlight
Into the Spotlight (2023) – Movie Review and Summary
Overall
The movie is devoid of any debauchery or anything too heartbreaking, but by making the movie especially wholesome, it takes the impact out of Laura’s transformation and emotional beats.
Highlights
An Earnest Film that Conveys a Kind World
Disputable
Odd Pace with a Long Start and Abrupt Finish
Never Fully Explores Its Premise
75

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