14 December 2010

You Got Served (2004)

I'm back with number five in my dance movie series. This time around it's a movie that's close and dear to my heart. I don't even have to add a little section about where and how and why I watched this movie as I have the thing on DVD and like to throw it on as background noise every once in awhile. It's not a guilty pleasure, it's the truth.

Tagline: "If You Want Respect, You've Got to Take It."

Plot (6)
Nothing could be more ho-hum. Two friends are in the best dance crew but then experience a falling out and eventual reunion. Nothing innovative here. Throw in some backstabbing, a drug related side story, some “you’re in love with my baby sister!” drama, a troubled kid saved by dance bit, and You Got Served hits every average mark on the block. I’m throwing in a bonus point for an utter lack of originality. It’s hard to be this predictable.

Can the lead characters dance? (9)
Considering Marques Houston and Omarion are legit boy band members and did all of their own dance scenes, their work here has to be held in high regard. Of the two, Omarion is clearly the better dancer but Houston also blows every other dance movie lead out of the water. They also have a rain dance practice scene, separate but together.

The other three members of B2K are in the lineup too, and they are clearly just as dance talented. Also the non-Omarion members of B2K's went by Raz-B, Lil Fizz, and J-Boog. Wild guess here but those aren't their real names. Who else knew that Marques Houston wasn’t actually in B2K? Not me. Turns out he’s from Immature, and had terrible hair to boot.

How’re the dance scenes? (10)
I’ve been teasing in my earlier dance reviews that the high mark for hip hop dance scenes was set by You Got Served. Right from the beginning, the choreography is awesome, the energy outstanding, and there’s one move where they switch jackets between individuals that had me and my friends rising out of our seats when we saw it on the big screen. Because the many dance scenes are battle style, there’s an extra element of competition as two crews face off against each other. If there actually existed a place like this venue, I’d be there like every night.

Any movie that spins off a successful DVD instructional video must have good dancing right? Nobody was trying to produce a Honey how-to video for example. And don’t think I didn’t buy You Got Served: Take It to the Streets as soon as I found out about it. The movie special features also include all the dance scenes but with uncut camera angles. It's a gem.

Best dance scene? Probably the opening piece, which throws you right into the action and makes you go "Oh shit, this is going to be great!" I'm also partial to the ending, which is just all kinds of craziness.

For your viewing pleasure, here are all the dance clips I could find on Youtube: Trailer, opening dance, dance scene 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, ending dance. Conceivably you just watch these and skip the bad movie bits in-between. But where's the fun in that?

How’s the love story? (3)
Omarion’s character hasn’t seen Marques Houston’s sister in quite some time. Over the years, she’s blossomed into a cutie and Omarion is rightly sprung. The two fall for each other when Omarion walks her to her job -- what a gentleman. Of course, Marques is less than pleased and knows that his friend is really a dog. When Omarion skips out on a drug deal to hang out with lil’sis, the friendship between the guys fall apart. Yawn.

Rate the sidekicks (9)
Easily taking the crown for the best best friend ever, Marques’ sister’s friend (played by the black Megan Fox, Meagan Goode) wears shirts with her own face screenprinted on them, and tells everyone that the correct spelling of her name is “Beautiful with two ‘L’s’” She doesn’t get to do much besides be sassy but Beautiful is a great character and possibly deserving of a spin off. Oh wait, she also comforts the sister, Liyah, in an emotional scene by bringing her a mug of hot chocolate and declaring, “You know what they say, hot chocolatey make the pain go away.” Profound.

The other prominent side character is Mr. Rad, played by Steve Harvey, who is the organizer and arbiter of the dance club. Harvey brings his dramatic weight to the role and his character spreads a message of positivity and non-violence. No seriously. Watch the DVD extras. Harvey insisted that his character be rewritten to accommodate some Bill Cosby type righteousness. Everyone needs a Mr. Rad in his life, especially if you’re battle dancing for cash.

Shout out to Lil’Kim for the worst celebrity cameo of all time. She manages to kill all her lines and audience members’ vision in about two minutes of screen time. And by “kill” I mean “butcher hilariously.”

Best line (8)
I’m partial to all of Beautifull’s lines. Each one is a golden nugget of quotability. Listen to her describe how to say her name: “And that's with two L’s. You gotta accentuate the L’s. You know, let it roll off your tongue.” Love her.

But the prize here goes to Elgin, Marques Houston’s character, who tells his sister the following: “Liyah go home and stop acting like a ho!” Damn. If I said that to my sister I hope someone would smite me immediately. Actually I’m pretty excited to use this line during our next argument, I’ve been saving it for years.

Music (9)
For a movie featuring several prominent boy band members, the soundtrack is obviously quite good. Okay calling B2K “prominent” is a bit of a stretch. But they are all over the soundtrack and most of the songs are good. In fact, the entire soundtrack is a must download. I especially like the opening and closing numbers: Timbaland’s “Drop” and Joe Budden’s “Pump It Up.”

Fashion (4)
Strangely, nothing stands out here. Maintaining an authentic look at the faux underground dance scene, all the characters dress like any normal hip hoppers you might see walking the streets. Baggy pants, sports jerseys, broad rimmed hats, and sweat band accessories galore. The only standout piece was Beautifull’s t-shirt, which I’ve already glorified before. I enjoyed seeing dance crews that didn’t costume up for each engagement, even if I would have preferred something slightly flashier for the last scene, which featured the teams in matching track suits. Guess the budget ran out. Such a strong part of hip hop dancing is personality, and making each member wear uni-colored outfits seemed a bit lame. Also if you didn't know, more bandanas/sweatbands is the more cowbell of the dance world.

Cultural Impact (6)
For a movie with such inspired dancing, You Got Served didn’t spawn any sequels or score big at the box office. I want to go ahead and say that part of the reason could be because the movie was targeted toward an urban audience and didn’t feature a pair of white leads. And don’t tell me the world wasn’t ready for dance movies yet. Three years earlier, Save the Last Dance grossed ninety million and even Honey, released two months before You Got Served, grossed thirty million. You Got Served cleared forty million, and made less worldwide despite being a far superior movie. Of course, You Got Served was made on an eight million dollar budget so it profited big time. So why no sequel? You say bad plot and cheesy lines? I say racism! Who's with me?

On another note, the movie’s title did insert “you got served” into our cultural lexicon, which instantly became ubiquitous and lame at the same time. Try saying that phrase in the heat of verbal battle, or after dunking on someone, and immediately get laughed off the court. Served, served, served!

Miscellaneous (8)
Director Christopher B. Stokes not only wrote the film but was also the manager of B2K and Immature. While we applaud Stokes' vision and Renaissance man skills, there have been some allegations about his sheparding of the boys under his stewardship. Actually there's a lot of craziness that I won't really go into here, but it involves some distateful things not appropriate for a PG-13 audience. High marks for the drama though.

You Got Served features a ton of dancers that are famous in the community. For example, Shane Sparks was a choreographer, my ABDC faves, The Beat Nuts are in there, Wade Robson makes a cameo, there's a lot of SYTYCD people, and of course Harry Shum Jr. MTV personality Lala hosts the Big Bounce competition. Funkmaster Flex is on the wheels of steel or whatever. There's a lot of semi-celebs in this thing if you know who you're looking at.

I won't lie, You Got Served is one of my favorite dance movies. So how did it only get a 72, a mere nine points higher than the original Step Up? Well, a better way to look at it is that You Got Served was only five points lower than Centerstage, which is inarguably a more well rounded movie. You Got Served suffers from some horrific acting, terrible cheesy scenes, and a weak plot. However, the dancing is great and it absolutely still holds up. In a way, this awkward combination makes it the seminal craptastic dance movie. Remember, we're grading these movies on a curve here, so really a 72 could be interpreted as nearly a solid A right? If you want me to bring this movie over to your house so we can watch it together, I will. And then we can do the how-to video afterward. Aren't you excited?