04 June 2010

Street Dance (2010)

Hey kids, I'm back with a special foreign edition of my dance movie review series. I know I was slated to do Step Up 2 but while walking around London, I kept getting blasted with ads about a dance movie in 3D. Everywhere we went, on street signs, in the Tube, I saw these things. I naturally assumed it was just Step Up 3D but after taking a closer look, I realized that this was a whole different dance movie being presented to us in three dimensions. While I wasn't about to take time out of my vacation to watch a movie, I can't say I wasn't tempted. Then, wonder of wonders, on the flight back home, Street Dance was one of the movie options. Joy! George and I immediately coordinated our individual screens for a viewing of "the world's first 3D dance film."

Tagline: "Two Worlds. One Dream."

1. Plot (3)
Hey, let's rip the plot straight from the original Step Up! Hip hop and ballet will never mix (or can it?), but apparently if you wait a few years, you can rehash the entire debate all over again. After a strange beginning where the top UK crews perform behind semi-closed doors to make the Street Dance Championships, it's revealed that Carly's boyfriend and the leader of her crew, Jay, is quitting five weeks before the finals. He needs to go find himself or something, blah blah. That leaves Carly in a pinch as half her team doesn't believe in her and the other half walks out after the next practice. With no dancers, no place to practice, and only a month until the competition, Carly the sandwich girl -- her day job -- is in a bind. Eventually, Carly finagles her way into practice space at the royal ballet school in exchange for incorporating some of the students into her crew. If this sounds like a generic set up, it totally is. Nothing should surprise you and nothing will. The trailer is fun though.

2. Can the lead characters dance? (6)
The actress who plays Carly, Nichola Burley, is sort of a British Kate Hudson. She's a decent lead in that she's good at being cutesy, blonde, and faux-rough and tough. Her previous film credits include a starring role in "Donkey Punch," which is just um, well, I'll leave that one unexplained. While there's nothing particularly mesmerizing about Carly the character, her Northern English accent is fun and that makes her imminently watchable. As for her dancing, I'll say she's about average. It's clear that she's the weak link in her crew but since she's the headliner, she's up front and center during everything. Burley gives it a good go but she's not a great dancer. Everyone else around her seems to be trained though, so it's no surprise the other semi-leads were excellent.

3. How're the dance scenes? (9)
One of the awesome things about this movie is that there are a ton of dance scenes -- including street versus ballet dance offs. Remember Susan Boyle? Well, she didn't win Britain's Got Talent because Flawless and Diversity, two dance crews, were the finalists that season. Both groups are heavily featured in the movie and they're quite good. While I don't necessarily love their dance style myself I did enjoy the sheer amount of dancing crammed into the film. George Sampson, another winner of Britain's Got Talent, plays a minor sidekick role and has a solo performance. Basically imagine if all the best groups from America's Best Dance Crew got a movie, that was Street Dance.

The best dance scene was probably near the end, when Carly takes her newly formed crew to the club and they run into their arch-nemesis group. Surrounded by a rowdy crowd, everyone creates a big battle circle and both crews throw down, or take it to the streets, or whatever. Sure it was exactly like all the scenes from You Got Served but the energy of the club -- and the variety of dancing -- elevated it above most of the other performances in the movie. Honorable mention goes to a little scene mid-way through the movie that showcases a few styles of street dance, as Carly calls out members of her crew to perform their specialties. It had sort of a martial arts movie feel to it and I liked that. But for best scene, the You Got Served rip off was pretty great.

4. How's the love story? (3)
Since there's so much dancing in this movie, there's not a whole lot of room for plot. Carly is still hung up on her ex-boyfriend and keeps trying to get him back throughout the first half of the movie. When he finally does show up for a quickie reunion, it turns out he's actually an asshole. Shocking. Luckily for Carly, one of the ballerinos is tall and hunky and available for the kissing. I never even caught his name since it was just easier to mentally refer to him as "that ballerino guy." The actor who plays the new love interest, Richard Winsor, was named "Sexiest Dancer in the World" by Elle Magazine for what that's worth. George assures me that he's super hot and I guess I'll have to take her word on it. Winsor also recently played Edward Scissorhands during a stage adaptation. I don't see how he did that since he's not exactly a great actor but maybe Edward was required to do a lot of dancing in that show. In short, the love story between Carly and whatever his name is was tepid and uninspired.

5. Rate the sidekicks (4)
This is going to sound bad but Carly's entire dance crew was basically her and a bunch of anonymous black people in the background. Sure she had a token best friend figure, sure they probably had names and personalities, but none of them were given very many lines or much to do in the movie. Of the handful of ballerinas she was forced to use, there was more distinction if only because they varied in color and size. There was a giant ballerina who stood out because she was too tall for her dream profession. There was a bitchy ballerina that resisted learning hip hop. There was an Asian ballerina that was well, Asian.

The only sidekick of note was Eddie, played by the previously mentioned George Sampson. He's Carly's sandwich making co-worker, and they share a goofy (but cute according to George) sandwich dance scene but aside from that, nobody stood out from the rest of the cast.

6. Best line (8)
While I can't really recall many standout dialogue bits, I'm giving high marks in this category because almost any line done in an English accent is delicious. So far Street Dance may seem a bit sub-par by ratings but let me tell you that it was highly enjoyable all around. Much of that is due to the dancing but even the in-between scenes, which are usually fast forward worthy in a dance flick, are imbued with excitement because everyone speaks in an awesome accent. Simple lines like "Nobody's supposed to dance outside, not in the UK at least, maybe in the US" (a dig at Step Up 2?) or "A street dance crew, it's like a family, we can't just take on new members" are filled with a lot more intelligence when done in an accent.

If forced to pick one best line, I really loved it when Carly initially rejects the ballet practice room and the administrator lady (played by Charlotte Rampling) snippily says to her, "Then I'll see you again when you deliver my lunch... and go easy on the mayonnaise this time." I liked it not because it was necessarily a great line but because the pronunciation of "may-o-naise" set me atwitter. See, a British accent makes anything memorable.

Oh, I also really enjoyed it when Carly's friend asked her to "gimme some heat" before they fist dapped. That was funny.

7. Music (4)
The musical selections started off really strong for me with a beginning montage that featured Beggin' (Pilooski re-edit). It's pretty much impossible to get enough of this song so I was psyched. Then the soundtrack wound through the usual hip hoppy tracks until suddenly a remix of Tiny Dancer assaulted my ears during the finale performance. Created by somebody named Ironik, this is probably the worst remix I've heard in awhile. I can't imagine Sir Elton allowed this to happen but here it is. While there's a bit of a thrill just hearing something recognizable, this remix was so deplorable I'm forced to link to it so you can suffer through it for yourself.

Additionally, this was the first single off the soundtrack, "We Dance On," which I don't actually remember playing at any point during the movie. The video is good though because it shows a lot of the dancing from the movie, plus it has little kids grooving, which is guaranteed to generate at least a few "awwnns."

8. Fashion (8)
High marks for fashion all around. Having discovered the wonder that is Top Shop clothing stores, I can see how cheap trendy clothing is abundant in the UK. The entire cast was appropriately outfitted in trendy hip hop including colorful sneakers, big print graphic tops, and backward hats. While hip hop fashion has moved on past this particular look, everything still works here and in comparison to most other dance movies' fashions, this was a big step up.

My only quibble was with Carly and her crew's final performance outfits. Their biggest competitors, The Surge (played by Flawless), always wear big boxy suits for their performances - and probably to bed for all I know -- so for some reason Carly's crew decides to come out in all-white suits. While I can agree with their color choice, wearing suits for your performance, especially when it's someone else's shtick is just wrong. Way to be original guys. This couture choice may sum up the entire movie actually, which seems like a retread of a lot of things from five years ago. However, you'll get a kick out of seeing some of the outfits, like Carly's glittery high tops or her two fingers crossed jacket. She also wears a lot of clothing with a star symbol on it, just so you know.

9. Cultural Impact (7)
Seeing as this hit number one recently, Street Dance 3D has been getting good reviews and financial success. Made on a shoestring budget -- about six million dollars -- it's good to know that a sequel won't be far behind. While this is good news for UK dance fans, there seems to more here. This review says that Street Dance is the first entirely British 3D film. If that's true, that is pretty huge and I'm willing to give a few points for the landmark occasion. Now UK audiences can look forward to more superfluous 3D experiences at higher prices, just like us!

10. Miscellaneous (5)
Given the time, I would have watched Street Dance 3D on principle just to find out what exactly necessitated anything being three dimensional. Reviews I read said that things get throw at you so I'm imagining hats or something during a routine. I can't decide if this would've been cool or terrible. I guess I'll have to wait until fall to experience Step Up 3D. I'm curious if this sets the bar for every new dance movie to come down the road. I wish I had more miscellaneous fun things to add here but there just isn't anything else.

There's nothing original about Street Dance, from the plot to the dancing to the title to the faux-drama, yet somehow it's quite an enjoyable experience. I wish there was more trademark British wit thrown in the mix, and that the movie didn't seem like it could have easily been made in the States, but for what it is, Street Dance was an enjoyable dance movie and well worth the time. I think the sheer amount of dancing, plus the accents, made this a possible must-buy in the collection.