It is officially time for people to wake up to the sounds of fun times and much needed healing found in original movies released on Disney+. The new film, World’s Best released on June 23, and follows Prem Patel (Manny Magnus), a math genius in middle school who discovers that his deceased father was an underground rapper. As he learns more about him, Prem begins to imagine his father being in the room with him, talking to him, and begins a journey of self-discovery and healing from a loss that was never fully addressed by Prem or his mother.
World’s Best comes across as an average film made for tweens and young adults, but beneath the surface, it holds a lot of weight in the themes it discusses. Over the last few years, Disney has done a phenomenal job of creating stories that discuss subjects like grief, generational trauma, the concept of incomplete families, validation from others, and self-acceptance. This film in particular brings most of these elements together and lays them out across the full runtime before addressing these issues and allowing for a moment of healing and growth to unfold.
For example, in the film, the absence of Prem’s father is rarely, if not ever discussed. But as soon as his imagination begins to run wild, he creates an image of what he thinks his father was like. It is that same imagination that allows him to develop a new passion in hip-hop music and dance his love of math. On the other hand, due to Prem’s desire to obtain a certain level of skill in the art of hip-hop as well as validity and acceptance, he encounters several situations that lead to embarrassing yet equally humbling moments. Again, it’s through his imagination that he’s able to create a system of integrity to abide by that he believes his own father would have followed.
Not only do we see this set up with Prem, but we also see it heavily within the relationship he has with his mother who hasn’t quite gone past the grieving stage. While the relationship isn’t strained beyond repair, it becomes clear very quickly that there is a great deal of work needed on both sides to effectively heal the family. And while that is a difficult task, it’s comforting to see that the film takes a new route that leads to moments of genuine compromise and understanding. So much of the film’s moments are overflowing with emotions that pull on our heartstrings and make us feel for the characters, whether we’ve experienced something similar or not.
But let’s also talk about how artistic World’s Best is in terms of visuals, music, and even performance. As mentioned before, there is a level of imagination that Prem has that allows the story to be pushed further along. We consistently see through over-the-top musical numbers where Prem is performing hip-hop rhymes with his father. Mashing these catchy songs with fantastical set designs is only enhanced by the high level energy and enthusiasm that is seen with Manny Magnus and Utkarsh Ambudkar. It’s clear there is on-screen and off-screen chemistry between the two that makes this father-child duo so much more believable and a joy to watch. Punam Patel as Prem’s mother, Priya is given her time to shine as well as she navigates the difficult path of parenting but never having a moment to properly grieve.
And while the soundtrack is not the most memorable, “Come Home”, which is performed by Ambudkar and rising TikTok creators in the music space, Kiran + Nivi, provides an added emotional layer to the overall film. Not only does it speak from the perspective of Suresh, Prem’s father, but it also symbolizes the relationship between Prem and his mother. It’s not uncommon for children to change who they are as they grow older and become more exposed to the world and what it has to offer. What matters is that they know they have a loving home to come back to at the end of every day.
It’s always a joyful feeling to remember we are in a time where stories for so many marginalized communities are becoming more imaginative as they leave the box they stuck in for so long. World’s Best continues to progress by allowing a South Asian kid to have a story that isn’t centered around stereotypes but instead, offers the ability to try different things and experiment with new ideas. The film might not have the smoothest transitions and may have a few scenes that lack explanation. But this can be easily overlooked given the way that this film explores deeper themes that are typically avoided with younger people. It’s as if it’s written to guide young audiences through difficult times but also serves as a medium to heal the audience’s soul in more ways than one, and serves as a reminder that we are not alone.
World’s Best receives 4 out of 5 Samosas.
World’s Best is now streaming on Disney+.
Runtime: 1h 41m
If you want even more film discussions, reviews, or just some good old recommendations, be sure to follow @samosasandpopcorn on TikTok!