This piece contains mild spoilers for Netflix's Dash & Lily.
It's only November but Netflix is already blessing (or cursing, depending on your tastes) us with holiday fare. One of their better offerings is the modern New York fairytale Dash & Lily. The show follows two teens lost in NYC over Christmas. Dash (Austin Abrams) hates the holiday and is very much a peacoat-wearing JD Salinger-reading cynical sad boy stereotype. Lily (Midori Francis) loves the season but is alone without her usually festive family. In an attempt to help her find love, Lily leaves a notebook in The Strand bookshop, beginning a city-wide scavenger hunt and love connection between the pair. It's all very cute, charming, and utterly unbelievable. But just in case you think that it's meant to be realistic, Nick Jonas turns up as himself to play a free concert in the snow and offer some brief but meaningful romantic advice.
So yes, this piece is not about Dash & Lily--which is legitimately enjoyable holiday fare--this is about Nick Jonas, who when he appeared on screen made me yell "IT'S NICK JONAS!" out loud. In case you aren't well versed in pop music and Disney Channel original movies, Jonas is part of the recently reunited Jonas Brothers who are... you guessed it, musical brothers. As a kid he was the face of Disney's creepy purity ring push, and performed around the world--I know, I took my kid sister to see the band play live at Wembley Stadium--but most importantly he began an acting career in a Jonas-themed show and later in the perfect Kenny Ortega Disney Channel class war musical, Camp Rock. That might seem irrelevant to Dash & Lily but that wonderful little movie gets a shoutout during Jonas' brief yet impactful Christmas-themed cameo.
During the series' climax, Dash attempts to find his friend Boomer (Dante Brown) in order to reconnect with Lily and make amends before she leaves the city on New Year's Eve. It's all very epic and romantic, but as he rushes across the city he ends up at an outdoor concert by none other than the Jonas Brothers. It's a vital moment that also signifies a shift in friendship with Boomer, who appreciates his pop-music-hating friend appearing at one of the poppiest bands to ever-pop-music just for him. But this isn't a simple music cameo, oh no. In fact, as the crew of handsome teens head "somewhere quiet" they end up in Nick Jonas' trailer, which you don't realize until the man himself walks in and asks what the random children are doing there.
Jonas - who co-produced the series through his Image 32 studio - essentially plays a magical role here, appearing to give Dash some much needed advice. It's a silly Christmas movie trope that's both familiar and totally corny, but the series is self-aware enough to cut it off before it becomes too much. In a silly and hilarious twist, Jonas only gets to offer his opening gambit of "When I proposed, I really had to dig deep inside myself" before being cut off by the eager teen who has already heard enough from ol' Jonas. There's a charm and absolute refusal to take himself seriously that adds an extra layer of humor and enjoyment here as well as his relaxed-yet-magical arrival fully cementing the series in absolute fantasy.
There are plenty of well established Christmas movie moments that are seemingly designed to take you out of the film and reality. In Hallmark and Lifetime movies, any iteration of Santa Claus is always real. Those same stories often feature people with unbelievable careers that could never sustain a real human person... professional sock designer, anyone? But I'm hoping that Jonas' appearance will introduce a new holiday trope: the magical pop star who arrives just in time to tell you what you need to hear before disappearing back into their charmed life. And even better if they're almost immediately disregarded by whomever they've deigned to help.
But as fun as this twist was there's another reason that Jonas' appearance is so fun and it all goes back to Camp Rock. See, it turns out that the reason the kids are chilling in the star's trailer is that Jonas went to "Band Camp" with two of the teens who just happen to be Jewish rappers known as the "Challah Back Boys." Now that's my kind of easter egg! Does that mean that Dash & Lily takes place in some kind of Camp Rock extended universe? Could we see Demi Levato appear if the show gets a second season? Probably not, but it would make this Camp Rock fan incredibly happy. Either way, it was a super fun self-aware nod to Jonas' own ever so slightly corny but totally charming teen movie acting roots.
Sadly there was no reference to the brilliance of Jonas' underrated B-movie Careful What You Wish For, the film that made me a true Nick Jonas stan. The 2015 flick is a totally outrageous erotic thriller that lifts heavily from the '80s classic Body Heat. Seeing as he ends up having an affair with his neighbor and getting up to all kinds of trouble before winding up in jail, I can understand why the creators didn't want to reference it. But seeing as we're talking about Jonas, you can watch the wild yachting thriller for free on Tubi now... I couldn't not bring it up!
Even without a nod to that direct-to-video masterpiece, Dash & Lily succeeds in its biggest aim: to make us all smile this holiday season. And Jonas' brief cameo acts as the decorative holly on top of this proverbial Christmas pudding.
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