Rating: 3 out of 5.

Set in 1999 Spokane, Mixtape follows adorable twelve-year-old Beverly (Gemma Brooke Allen) as she accidentally destroys the cassette mixtape belonging to her deceased mother. She is left with only a mysterious track list, and remains clueless as to how to repair it. Now, Beverly will do whatever it takes to find each and every song, mainly in an effort to form the personality to the mother she never knew. Tracking down tunes back in the 90s was certainly not as easy as opening up Spotify or Apple Music—the film becomes a curious journey, with each song more obscure than the last, as Beverly gets closer to completing a full listen. Mixtape is a sweet and fitting film to debut on Netflix, where families will eat up this throwback dramedy.

Smartly setting the movie in the home-stretch of the 90s allows Mixtape to play in the sandbox of the Y2K scare. Everyone thought the computers would go wonky, and we would have some type of strange apocalypse; thankfully, this did not come to pass. Screenwriter Stacey Menear (known for her scripts The Boy and Brahms: The Boy II) plays on obvious but intelligent feelings around this time period. The Y2K of it all brought me back to my own youth, as the air of uncertainty hanging over my family as we watched the ball drop from home was honestly scary for a minute. Mixtape may not embrace the horror angle, but it does a great job at reminding audiences of the naivety of a simpler time before cell phones and computers fully reigned supreme. Napster makes an appearance too, the infamous bootleg music-download website which had at least a fleeting appearance in the lives of every 90s child.

As for the most important question about Mixtape: are the songs actually good? Defining what a mixtape means for the audience serves to make it accessible (if slightly dumbed down), and I appreciated the relationship that Beverly forms with a quirky record-store owner (Nick Thune) as he implores her a mixtape is “a message from the maker to the listener.” The order of the songs is important! That being said, I cannot say I really knew or looked fondly towards any of them. In this way, they are meaningful and cherry-picked from obscurity. Every tune gets time to shine in the spotlight.

Julie Bowen as Beverly’s Aunt Gail and a dorky newfound Taiwanese friend, Ellen (Audrey Hsieh), sprinkle heart and fun into the movie in an unexpected way. Despite losing steam in the home stretch, I was never bored following Beverly in a relatable, charming exploration of her family roots. Part of the reason her character remains so endearing is thanks to Gemma Brooke Allen’s committed and spunky performance. When upset, Beverly changes the letters in “mixtape” to form “mistake,” which speaks more to questionable writing than to Allen’s acting or line delivery. Mixtape goes deep into cheesy territory eventually, but it is still a cute enough diversion to warrant its existence.

Mixtape hunts for the tracks when it debuts on December 3rd, exclusively on Netflix.

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