Julie and the Phantoms is a 2020 remake of the Brazilian children’s show Julie e os Fantasmas. The Netflix series is helmed by showrunners and executive producers Dan Cross and David Hoge (The Thundermans) with episodes directed by Kenny Ortega (High School Musical, Descendants).
The show follows high school student, Julie Molina (Madison Reyes), who is still mourning the passing of her mother, a songwriter and pianist. Though she has the help of her family and best friend Flynn (Jadah Marie), Julie is still struggling when it comes to her personal relationship with music. This is until she finds some unexpected help in the form of three ghosts: Luke (Charlie Gillespie), Alex (Owen Patrick Joyner), and Reggie (Jeremy Shada). All three are members of the band Sunset Curve who died 25 years ago from eating some bad street food. Despite being invisible to everyone except Julie, the phantoms can be seen whenever they play music with her, which becomes the band’s main gimmick. To explain their sudden appearances Julie tells people that the boys are a holographic projection. It’s a goofy explanation that seems obvious to see through, but the show chooses to play it straight, which makes it all the more amusing.
The main plots of Julie and the Phantoms follow Julie’s reconnecting with music and the boys having to decide between eternal fame and “crossing over” to the afterlife. The show manages to escalate both of these plots at a surprisingly even pace, for only having nine episodes. The several subplots that sprout up along the way lead back into the main story in a serendipitous manner. The plot threads in the first half of the show come together later on with the introduction of the show’s main antagonist, a spectral magician and night club owner named Caleb Covington (Cheyenne Jackson). While Julie balances school, crushes, and music, the boys must find a way to deal with Caleb.
Though I very much enjoyed my time with Julie and the Phantoms, one thing I would like to see in a second season is more development of the supporting cast. In particular, I would like to see more of Julie’s best friend Flynn, her rival Carrie (Savannah Lee May), and her little brother Carlos (Sonny Bustamante).
Flynn has a defining moment early on in the show where she becomes upset with Julie for lying to her about the band. While a lot of similar shows would minimize Flynn’s point of view, Julie and the Phantoms instead acknowledges her feelings. Julie resolves the issue by simply apologizing and telling Flynn the truth. This moment stands out, as it’s more than what is usually given to the best friend character, particularly when the best friend is black. That being said, I hope that if there is a second season we get to explore Flynn’s character even more.
Carrie is another interesting character, as she’s not only Julie’s rival and ex-best friend but is also the daughter of Sunset Curve’s living ex band-mate, Bobby now going by Trevor (Steve Bacic). Carrie holds her suspicions about Julie’s new act but seems to be unaware of the fact that her father’s career is built on music stolen from his ex-bandmates. I look forward to seeing what could come from her discovering the truth and whether she’ll choose to help Julie and the band or side with her father.
In Carlos’s case, I enjoyed the storyline revolving around his ghost hunting hobby. What, at first, seems to be a recurring gag ends up being a touching moment when he explains that part of the reason he started is that he thinks he might get to see his mother.
Speaking of touching moments, the highlight of the show for me is when Julie helps Luke get some post-mortem closure with his still-living mother. She goes with Luke to his parents’ house and gives his mother the lyrics to a song he wrote for her. The scene is capped off with a beautiful performance by Gillespie. Luke is given the chance to see that his parents are proud of him and his mother is given the knowledge that her son loved her.
After watching Julie and the Phantoms, I look forward to seeing more of the show in the future. Madison Reyes’ performance, along with those of her castmates, shows that they have what it takes to carry the supernatural musical comedy for multiple seasons. Joyner manages to give a stand out performance alongside Booboo Stewart, who plays his love interest. It’s also nice to see Shada step into more live-action roles following his tenure on Adventure Time.
Overall, Julie and the Phantoms is a fun watch that can be finished in an afternoon. Be sure to check it out if you were ever a fan of Disney Channel original movies or any of Ortega’s other works like Teen Beach Movie and High School Musical.