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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

Cha Cha Real Smooth: Review

After breaking out on the indie scene with Sh*thouse, writer, director, and star Cooper Raiff returns to his coming-of-age lens with Cha Cha Real Smooth. I can see why his latest film received a glowing reception at its Sundance premiere. With both of his first two features, Raiff conveys the type of comforting, quirky material the festival is known for propelling (Coda, Juno, and Garden State).

At the same time, the Sundance coming-of-age formula has shown signs of aging. Several notorious features attempt sentimentality without grounding their insights in authenticity, often creating cheery yet uninspired detours into the coming-of-age milieu (The Only Living Boy in New York and Wish I Was Here). For me, at least, Cha Cha represents another cloying and milquetoast attempt at coming-of-age sentiments.

Raiff follows the typical narrative formula to a tee, introducing his manchild protagonist as a down-on-his-luck college graduate looking for a purpose in his life. Raiff and his assured supporting cast help prop up some of the material’s predictability, but the experience can’t help feeling like a cumbersome exercise in cliche territory. None of the film’s personal revelations, relationships, or comedic gags feel exclusive to Cha Cha’s narrative. Instead, the film runs the gamut of coming-of-age territory without imbuing unique nuances or ideas to the table.

Cha Cha Real Smooth is too affable to detest. That said, Raiff’s latest still can’t escape its oppressively familiar design.


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