Review – Battle of the Year

Battle of the Year Poster

Despite inventing B-boying (break dancing for the uninitiated), the US has gone years without even making a decent showing at the big international b-boy competition, Battle of the Year.  Hip hop mogul and original B-boy, Dante (Laz Alonso) is determined to turn that around with the help of his old friend, washed up basketball and former B-boyer, Derrek (Josh Holloway).  Derrek is anything but an orthodox coach and rather than work with the current (losing) talent, he goes about putting together a dream team of dancers that need to be ready to compete in just a few months.  Josh Peck costars as Franklyn with a Y, a young go-getting assistant of Dante’s who happens to be at the right place at the right time.  Chris Brown appears as Rooster, a dancer with an attitude problem, along with performers from So You Think You Can Dance.    Battle of the Year is based on director Benson Lee‘s documentary of the same name.

If anything, the trailers for this dance film make it look like another Step Up ripoff, for better or for worse.  Probably for worse.  Thankfully there is actually something more here than some fancy moves on the dance floor.  There’s an actual story.  As unlikely as it sounds, the characters end up being people you can actually care about and even have a bit a depth to them.  Holloway and Peck have a surprisingly good rapport going which goes a long way in elevating this film to something you might actually want to watch.

Despite the majority of the cast being dancers first, actors second, the dialogue ends up sounding pretty natural and not too forced.  There are a few scenes where things end up sounding a little stilted, but it’s not too distracting.  The plot is pretty simplistic – there’s only so much you can do with the classic athlete underdog story.  Even if it’s predictable at most turns, it manages to hold its own and not feel stale, mostly due to the fun performances of the two Josh’s.  My biggest complaint is that there are a few instances of painfully obvious product placement that cheapen the feel of the moment and remind you that this was probably produced on a shoe-string budget.

It’s not going to end up as a great classic or must-see cinema, but Battle of the Year manages to be a decently solid sports movie that just happens to have a lot of really cool dance moves in it.  If you like dance movies, this one is definitely for you.  Take my advice though, if you see it, skip the 3D – it’s completely pointless.

Mrs. Hamster says:

“It was better than I thought it was going to be, but I have no idea why it was in 3D.”

My Rating:  Three out of Five Hats

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Trailer:

Battle of The Year windmills and headspins into 2,008 theaters in 2D and 3D, September 20