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In 'Cha Cha Real Smooth,' Cooper Raiff simply has 'it'

Cooper Raiff in “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” premiering June 17, 2022 on Apple TV+.
Cooper Raiff in “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” premiering June 17, 2022 on Apple TV+.

Cha Cha Real Smooth is the second feature from 25-year-old Cooper Raiff. And while I don't know if my heart was as big as his when I was that age, I know for sure that I didn't have his ability to communicate that in any meaningful way.

Raiff also stars in the film as Andrew, a guy just out of college who moves back home and gets a bad job. It's a place a lot of people find themselves, where whatever they learned at school doesn't seem to have any connection to whatever comes next, and where there's a whole lot still to learn about life.

But one thing Andrew does have going for him is that he's absurdly charming. With his goofy enthusiasm, he's the sort of person who makes anyone he's talking to feel like the most important person in the world, because he honestly seems to believe they are. He’s just incredibly excited about people. One night, he accompanies his little brother to a bat mitzvah, works the room to get everyone dancing, and is offered a job as a "party starter" for the upcoming ceremonies of his brother's classmates.

One of those classmates is Lola, who's autistic, and who Andrew takes to immediately. Lola's mother is Domino, played by Dakota Johnson, who Andrew also takes a conflicted liking to— conflicted, because Domino is engaged, but she's also kind, mysterious, and looks like Dakota Johnson.

Of course, things get messy, but none of it happens in a sitcom-type way, or even really a romcom-type way. It's easy to believe these are all real people just doing their best, and people don't always make sense, but at least you can be nice to each other, and when you're not, you can apologize and try to do better the next time.

And through all of it is Cooper Raiff, who is not only magnetic simply in his personality, but also has a sincere sweetness and a delightful sense of comic timing. He has "it," and I don't even need to wonder what "it" is— the kid's got heart.

Cha Cha Real Smooth is on Apple TV+ June 17th.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.