Dance-battle movies — “Step Up” and its ilk — have become the musicals of their generation. They may be formulaic in the extreme, generic in their romances and peopled by character “types.” But they’re athletic extravaganzas celebrating great skill and the art of B-Boys and B-Girls.
They may wear the veneer of “street” and “edgy,” but parents appreciate how harmless they are.
“Battle of the Year” touches on that, how the rest of the world has embraced B-Boy culture, but how they’re no longer seen as cutting edge in the United States.
That worries the Sean Combs-like impresario, Dante (Laz Alonso).
He’s got to protect his music, dance and fashion empire by putting American B-Boys back on top. He hires an old dance buddy, W.B. (for “Wonder Bread”), now an alcoholic ex-basketball coach (Josh Holloway of “Lost”). W.B. has to get himself up to speed on the state of dance, then recruit and coach a “dream team” of the best of America’s best to take on the rest of the world, which has passed America by to dominate the annual B-Boy Olympics known as “BOTY,” the Battle of the Year.
That team consists of assorted arrogant, chip-on-their-shoulder show-offs, because that’s what it takes to succeed at this. Actual star dancers such as Do Knock and Flipz are mixed in with others, including singer Chris Brown.
The director of the definitive documentary on the worldwide phenomenon, “Planet B-Boy,” co-wrote and directed this, and immodestly has characters watch that film. Very B-Boy.
Holloway cannot even hint at a real dance past, so the movie fakes that by having his coach run his guys through drills.
Every scene includes overly made-up close-ups, all teen magazine posters. It’s laughable.
Which, while it doesn’t describe the movie, does hit this genre in the bull’s eye. But then, the beauty of “Step Up” and its tired imitators is that the audience they’re shooting for has no idea there’ve been 20 or 30 movies just like this one.