Movie review: ‘Battle of the Year’ is the same ol’ dance

MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICESeptember 20, 2013 

934937 - Battle Of The Year

Steve Terada, Chris Brown and Anis Cherufa defy gravity in “Battle of the Year.”

  • BATTLE OF THE YEAR

    ••

    Rated: PG-13 for language and some rude behavior. Starring: Josh Holloway, Laz Alonso, Josh Peck, Caity Lotz, Chris Brown. Director: Benson Lee. Running time: 109 minutes. Theaters: Edwards 22 in Boise.

Dance battle movies — “Step Up” and its ilk — have become the musicals of this 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 perceived as cutting edge or “cool” in the United States.

That worries the Sean Combs-like impresario, Dante (Laz Alonso).

“How long before hip-hop isn’t cool?”

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 a grieving, alcoholic ex-basketball coach (Josh Holloway of “Lost”). W.B. has to get himself up to speed on the current 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 and long dominated the annual b-boy Olympics known as “BOTY,” the Battle of the Year.

That team consists of assorted arrogant, chip-on-their-shoulder showoffs, 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.

And helping out coach is Jewish hip-hop authority “Franklyn with a Y,” played by Josh Peck. He doesn’t dance himself. He’s Jewish, he explains.

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 and sing its praises. Very b-boy of him.

Holloway cannot even hint at a real dance past, so the movie fakes that by having his coach run his guys through drills (in split-screen sequences).

Tabloid darling Brown more than holds his own with this crew, apparently not even needing a dance double. The dance scenes — especially those involving teams from Germany, France and Korea — take the b-boy moves to the next level, blending gymnastics and dance in some pretty spectacular ways.

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