19 June 2014

Street Dance 2 (2012)

How could I have missed the fact that Street Dance had a sequel?! While the original wasn’t particularly memorable, it did great overseas and was also “the first entirely British 3D film,” giving it high marks for technological achievement. This time around, I didn’t see Street Dance 2 in 3D but I doubt I missed that much. Here here we go with the tenth installment of my dance movie review series.

Tagline: “Twice the Moves. Twice the Passion.” Other taglines seen on posters basically played off the “Twice As _____” formula. Insert any adjective basically: hot, flawless, smart, lethal, crazy, sharp, sassy. I don’t rate taglines but these have to be the worst ones. Watch Street Dance 2's trailer.

1. Plot (2)
The original Street Dance had a very derivative plot and it racked up the lowest plot score in my series. The bad news is that the sequel’s story is even more yawn worthy. Our main hero, Ash, is in attendance at a dance battle slinging popcorn and snacks when he decides to step on stage and challenge the leader of Invincible crew. In a brilliant plot twist, Ash flops big time -- setting up his character motivation -- but still manages to catch the attention of a wannabe team manager, Eddie. The two of them set off to recruit a dance crew capable of taking down Invincible. Along the way Ash finds / falls for a girl, has to overcome performance anxiety, and you know, blah blah blah. “Predictable” would be too positive a word here. The only part of Street Dance 2 that could be called "innovative" was the hip hop plus Latin dance angle. Not exactly pioneering but it'll do.

2. Can the lead characters dance? (8)
Well, if you extend the definition of “lead” character to both Ash and his love interest, Eva, then yes, they can dance. The problem with a lot of these dance movies is that the male leads are invariably white and well, that comes with baggage. As any veteran of craptastic dance movies know, there’s an inverse correlation between acting and dancing ability, and when you throw acceptable movie lead looks into the mix, it’s a mess. (Unless you are Channing Tatum, who arguably has it all. Arguably.) German actor Falk Hentschel can dance, sure -- he’s danced backup for Mariah and Britney -- but he’s outclassed here by nearly everybody else on-screen. It’s not directly his fault, but all of his co-stars are better dancers.

For example, Algerian-French actress Sofia Boutella, who plays Eva, is a far better dancer. In the movie she’s tasked with mostly doing Latin stuff but her background is in hip hop and street dance. Her Wikipedia says that she was part of a group that won a Hip Hop World Championships. Fun tidbit: Boutella, aka Idina Menzel-lite, has been a longtime face for Nike Women.

3. How’re the dance scenes? (7)
For sheer volume, Street Dance 2 probably wins for number of dance scenes. I usually make a list of individual dance scenes but for this film I stopped after reaching double digits. The “collect the crew” montage was super fun, a hypnotic salsa in a boxing ring scene was fresh and new, and a pillow fight turned dance party was creative. Plus there was an homage to Jackie Chan's drunken master style in one of the battles. In addition, there were lots of dance scenes set in front of absolutely beautiful backgrounds. (I’ll touch on Street Dance 2’s cinematography later, but the look of the movie was definitely a plus.) Ash's competitive ace in the hole tactic was to blend street dance with Latin dance, and those were the scenes that mostly popped with energy.

Unfortunately, after awhile the dance stuff started blending together and nothing really gave me the hair raising experience I typically look for. No "oh shit!" moments. Well, that’s probably selling the dance stuff short. The salsa battles were pretty cool, especially when it was Ash’s crew versus Team Salsa -- my pick for best dance scene in the movie. And then there was a warm up battle against another crew, The Surge, that was pretty thrilling. Overall, Street Dance 2 packed in enough to get a good score for quantity over quality.
4. How’s the love story? (2)
Super lame. We don’t expect much out of the romantic portion of these dance movies but this one committed the cardinal sin of not only being bad, but also lengthy. There was way too much time spent on Ash and Eva’s relationship, and it was clear the two actors had no chemistry with each other. Even blindfold tango couldn’t give this relationship any fire.

5. Rate the sidekicks (7)
The Ocean’s Eleven style open got me psyched for all of the sidekick characters as Ash and Eddie literally criss-crossed Europe collecting their dancers. I don't know how they funded their airfare but the All-Star list goes: Steph (Copenhagen), Tino (Ibiza), Skorpion (Swiss Alps), Bam-Bam (Amsterdam), Killa & Junior (Berlin), Terrabyte (Prague), Ali (Lyon), Yoyo & Legend (Rome). Each of the sidekick dancers seemed pretty awesome too, and the heavily tattooed Bam-Bam was a straight Amy Winehouse lookalike. And hello diversity with two and a half Asians and a guy who literally wore a T-shirt that said, “I’m Muslim, Don’t Panic." #weneeddiversity

Unfortunately, the sidekicks rarely got any time to shine. Forget anyone as fun/annoying as Step Up's Moose in this film. I don’t think the sidekicks got more than three lines combined. I don't know if there was a language barrier or something but literally nobody else got to talk much. It would have been awesome to see more individual dances since the montage was so good. As it stands, the semi-high score for this category is due to Googling post-movie for these European dancers, all of whom weren’t familiar to me Stateside.

6. Best line (2)
If you are into cheesy lines, this movie has got them. And that’s taking into account the quality of dialogue for all these other dance movies. The best line is arguably: "Dancing with a partner is about sharing the moment,” said by Eva’s old French uncle, Manu. There’s also lots of hokum like “People think tango is only about sex…but it’s really about channeling your passion.” Ah yeah, okay...

7. Music (2)
Well this category is a major bust. I realized about three-fourths of the way into the movie that most of the dance scenes weren’t memorable because the music wasn’t good. Either the scenes were set to generic-y dance and rock beats, or the music just wasn’t very good. In fact, when they started off the finale with a fast remix of “We Will Rock You,” I was soooo out. If they hadn’t used the classic and always sampled “Apache” for the opening, this score would have been even lower.

8. Fashion (9)
Here we go, this is where Street Dance 2 stood out. Much like its predecessor, Street Dance 2 came strong with the clothing. Every sidekick had a unique style (again we cite Bam-Bam, but also give a shout out to all of Steph’s outfits), some of the hairstyles were great, all of Eva's bondage and string outfits were ridiculous, and the entire cast could have easily leapt off the page of a fast fashion catalogue. In short, great looks all around! I’m docking a point because Invincible and The Surge’s outfits were very boring and lame. Oh, and the final competition outfits for Ash’s crew were so stupid it burned my soul.

9. Cultural Impact (3)
Well, I’d go ahead and say "none" but apparently Street Dance 2 "caused significant outrage among Algerians living in both France and Algeria due to their compatriot Sofia Boutella's appearance in scenes that are excessively risqué by Algerian standards.” When a dance film touches a nerve and inspires boycotts, that’s gotta count as impactful right?

Overall, Street Dance 2 didn’t make nearly the same amount of money as the first film but somehow still spawned a follow up that came out in 2013: Street Dance: All Stars. I can’t really tell if All Stars was a legit movie or a parody but it sure looks like the latter. It’s safe to say that the Street Dance series is probably dead.

10. Miscellaneous (8)
First off, George Sampson aka Eddie, won Britain's Got Talent at the tender age of fourteen. So I guess he’s famous over in the United Kingdom. Everyone else, no idea! The high score for miscellaneous is almost entirely given out because Street Dance 2 had some epic backgrounds. The overall production scored high marks and there was every effort made to fit in as many European landmarks as possible. In addition, there were some gorgeous shots such as Ash and Eva romancing in front of the Eiffel Tower, light filtering in through stained glass windows as they practiced, the whole bit. Street Dance 2 is a contender for best looking dance movie ever.

Also, the last competition is held in a giant stadium that seems to have like 5,000 people in attendance. I feel like it’s all extras but maybe it was just CGI. In any case, most dance movies have just a few hundred people for their crowd shots but Street Dance 2 seems to have thrown most of their budget into locations and extras. I would have spent a few more dollars on better writers for the script, but hey, I’m not a movie producer.

Well, this is a strange beast of a dance movie. While it’s packed with a ton of dance scenes and some very talented dancers, it’s also bogged down by way too much romance. In addition, the lead actor was not compelling and the plot was so tepid that I wish the whole thing had gone for satire or parody just to inject some fun into the film. Still, there are a few winning points here: the wide angle shots of European cities, the dance bits with the sidekicks, and the on trend clothing. All of this combined to make a dance film that ranked somewhere between the original Street Dance and Step Up Revolution. Basically ho hum and for completists only.