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edge staff writer


A losing Battle'

September 24, 2013
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Battle of the Year Battle of the Year

'Battle of the Year' a trite, tepid dance movie

There's something to be said for knowing that a movie is going to be bad before you go into it. While I'm generally a proponent of doing my utmost to give any film the benefit of the doubt, there are plenty of offerings whose lack of quality is impossible to ignore.

I'll also admit to not being a huge fan of the dance movie genre. It's rare for me to be genuinely engaged by a story of how a youth center/school/neighborhood/who-gives-a-crap is going to be saved by the power of dance.

So my personal bar was set very low for 'Battle of the Year.' Very low. And this movie somehow managed to burrow beneath that bar and fall far short of even my extremely limited expectations.

Here's the story (as if it matters):  Dante Graham (Laz Alonso, TV's 'Deception') is a hip-hop mogul who is concerned with America's declining performance in a global B-Boy competition called 'Battle of the Year.' He decides to enlist the help of his old breakdancing buddy Jason Blake (Josh Holloway, 'Paranoia'), a former basketball coach with a drinking problem, to coach a team designed to take back the world B-Boy Championship.

Believe it or not, it's even more ridiculous than it sounds.

Blake puts together an all-star team of breakdancers from all across the country. In order to bring all the individuals together as a crew, he takes them to an abandoned youth correctional facility and puts them through intensive training, cutting one dancer per week to get down to the final 13 required for a team to participate in the titular competition.

Seriously, even by the low, low standards of dance movies, this one is absurd.

We'll talk performance first. Alonso is a walking clich as Dante, embodying everything that an out-of-touch Hollywood executive believes a hip-hop mogul to be. Holloway spends most of his scenes glowering and grunting and looking bewildered. It's almost as if he wandered onto the wrong set on the first day of shooting and they just figured they'd put him to work. Other supporting players include Josh Peck ('Red Dawn') as assistant coach Franklyn the fact that his name has a 'Y' in it is the extent of his character development and singer/dancer/a-hole degenerate Chris Brown trying to act as he plays a dancer with the awful name of Rooster. The best you can say for his performance is that he manages to go the whole film without punching a woman. What can you say about the rest of the crew - as actors, they are fantastic breakdancers.

And the dance scenes are admittedly impressive, if a bit derivative of every single rec-center dance battle we've seen onscreen over the past decade. 'Battle of the Year' looks okay from a purely visual perspective, but it hardly matters when you've got such lackluster and wooden performances inside a laughably implausible storyline.

'Battle of the Year' somehow manages to come in with a run time of almost two hours. 109 minutes of a story that could have been told in 10, stuffed with unintentionally hilarious dialogue delivered by dancers struggling to emote you could practically hear the director saying things like 'OK, so on this next take, maybe try, I don't know, having feelings or whatever' and some of the most overt product placement you're ever likely to see.

When it comes to 'Battle of the Year,' there are no winners. We all lose.

[1 out of 5] 

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