In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_walk_among_the_tombstones

A Walk Among the Tombstones

Fans of the hardboiled detective, rejoice. Screenwriter-director Scott Frank and actor Liam Neeson, adapting the splendid work of crime novelist Lawrence Block, have brought a…

Thumb_zero_theorem_ver4

The Zero Theorem

Terry Gilliam's first science fiction film since "12 Monkeys" is an inventively designed but oddly inert satire on technology, God and the future of humankind.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Battle of the Year

Battle of the Year Movie Review
  |  

Amidst the arsenal of clichés deployed in "Battle of the Year," the one that stands out most is: "Change how you think, change your life." This call for self-actualization would make sense if "Battle of the Year" wasn't cobbled together from various sports movies' used parts.  It's about a group of American breakdancers who train to compete in an annual dance competition, but if you replaced the film's dance scenes with footage of competitive air hockey, curling, or marsupial unicycle-racing, it would still be the same movie. This wouldn't be a problem if the storytelling and direction were better, but we'll get to that in a moment.

Former "Lost" star Josh Holloway plays Jason Blake, an ex-basketball coach who becomes an alcoholic after his wife and son die in a car accident, then accepts a job offer from former b-boy dancer turned hip-hop mogul Dante (Laz Alonso). Dante wants Jason to train a team of breakdancers to compete in the annual Battle of the Year competition. He fires Dante's original team and assembles a new pool of talented dancers with "G.I. Joe"-esque nicknames: Do Knock, Rooster (rapper Chris Brown), Rebel, Sniper, Bambino.

At the start of "Battle of the Year," Dante's group is a cluster of forgettable stick figures; by film's end, it's a homogenized group of stick figures. All of the trials they face together are canned, and they're easily solved because they're never developed. Stacy (Caity Lotz), the group's choreographer, creates sexual tension when she appears, then takes it with her when she vanishes from the film. Brown's Rooster has a major rivalry that gets neatly resolved, whereupon he conveniently vanishes, too. And what's the deal with Franklyn (Josh Peck), Jason's assistant coach, and a guy whose only distinguishing characteristic is his Jewish-ness? The film cracks a few jokes about this early on—apparently, we Jews are "stripped of our swag at the circumcision"—but it, too, is dropped. Maybe the inevitable Direct-to-Video sequel will feature a middle-aged narc breakdancer who makes peace with a pot-dealing breakdancer, a militant feminist breakdancer who finds herself a nice boyfriend breakdancer, and a conflicted Buddhist breakdancer who attains breakdancer Nirvana, then vanishes. 

The choreography may be sophisticated, but it's hard to appreciate because the dance sequences are indifferently covered with multiple cameras rather than thoughtfully directed. None of the star dancers really get to show off, individually or as a group, because the average shot during these performances lasts about 1.5 seconds. The movie's inability to showcase its greatest asset, the grace and control of its dancers, is its most conspicuous failing. If it had done right by them in this one way, its other shortcomings might not have mattered. To put it in Clichénese, the only language "Battle of the Year" knows, the creators' hearts just weren't in this thing.

Popular Blog Posts

Now, "Voyager": in praise of the Trekkiest "Trek" of all

As we mourn Abrams’ macho Star Trek obliteration, it’s a good time to revisit that most Star Trek-ian of accomplishme...

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

The Unloved, Part Ten: "The Village"

Part ten in Scout Tafoya's The Unloved series tackles "The Village."

Defying Explanation: The Brilliance of David Lynch's "Eraserhead"

An appreciation of David Lynch's "Eraserhead" on the release of the film on Criterion Collection Blu-ray.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus