In the seven years I’ve been writing about film, I’ve seen more dance movies than I like to admit. Hell, I’ve even seen more than I can really remember at this point. If you really want to get down to it and have a sincere discussion about the modern dance movie, I’ll say that Battle of the Year — 2013’s 3-D dance extravaganza — is more serious-minded than, say, the Step Up series, but also less inherently absurd, and thus less fun. Neither are very good, mind you, just different sides of a limited, formulaic coin. In this case, Battle of the Year adds little beyond some uplifting sports-movie clichés, a harmless attitude and an ELO song (don’t get too excited, it’s “Mr. Blue Sky”).
The film opens with hip-hop magnate Dante (Laz Alonso) wanting desperately to win the worldwide breakdancing competition, the titular Battle of the Year. To do this, he enlists his childhood friend Jason (Josh Holloway), a former basketball coach who — as we’re told through extraneous fits of exposition — has fallen into alcoholism after the tragic death of his wife and son. Reluctantly, despite his lack of dance knowledge, Jason agrees, and managing to sober up enough to shave his neckbeard, soon convinces Dante to assemble a team of America’s best b-boys. And herein lies the rub, as these all-star breakdancers don’t exactly get along, and it’s up to Jason to bring them together through tough love, montages and inspirational speeches.
What follows is a lot of self-discovery for everyone involved and a lot of dudes spinning around on their heads, following the plot of pretty much every feel-good sports movie, but with dancing. And the dancing is occasionally pretty cinematic, but stylistically there’s only so much director Benson Lee is able to do with it. There’s nothing in Battle of the Year that hasn’t been reheated in a Step Up movie four times over. The movie also desperately needs about 20 minutes shorn from it — an aspect that truly cripples the film and keeps it from rising above the realm of guilty pleasure. Even the film’s generally agreeable tone isn’t enough to offset its faults and general mediocrity. Rated PG-13 for language and some rude behavior.
Playing at Carmike 10, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande