Recently released from juvenile detention, talented dancer Maria Ramirez finds an outlet for her passion with a new dance crew.
If only all disputes in life could be solved with a good old dance-off. The unrest in the Middle East would evaporate in the twist of a hip, the coalition government’s slick routine would have an enthralled country bobbing their heads in thrilled agreement and Ryan Giggs would be shaking his Lycra-clad booty to the sickest beats the tabloids could throw at him.
Of course, dance-offs raise a few too many problems for the less rhythmic among us – not least, how do you know for sure who wins?
The movers and shakers’ code evidently defines a universally recognised mark of victory, since all the competitions of my experience – which has admittedly been gleaned solely from the dance movie genre rather than in a Harlem car park – are resolved abruptly to a chorus of curses and cheers, and the appropriate follow-up stalk off: petulant or triumphant.
Perhaps it is only an inability to interpret the complex nuances of every fist-pump and backflip that leaves me so cold and detached. Perhaps the story is not merely a series of mechanical cliches strung loosely together between a row of thrusting pelvises, but in fact an artful exploration of metaphysical conundrums.
Perhaps the producers are overestimating the ability of their more simple viewers with their subtle interweaving of narrative clues.
Jessica Alba, who made her name in Honey, has quick-stepped her way out of the franchise, leaving behind even more hackneyed and joyless plot conventions for a new cast of stage school wannabes.
And what more do you need to enter blockbusting territory than a film that provides a thread of a plot for you to bust your undeniably slick break-dancing moves upon? Why look for more than a generic role as an urban teenager, ‘hoodrat’ or cute college boy to demonstrate your affinity for disaffected youth?
With a slight wrinkle of her pretty brow to signify a troubled past, Maria Ramirez (Katerina Graham) leaves behind the bad crowd (drug dealers and cads, the finger-wiggling lot of ’em) and sets about trying to create a routine for her new ‘crew’ that is ‘dipped in culture’.
It’s a tall order, but being part of a clunky teen flick is not all about dance skillz, kids. You gotta be able to produce wooden-looking demonstrations of the ‘mad love’ in your heart, too!
Luckily some slo-mo dance moves and a bit of bling boost a performance an awful lot when all the script provides is the occasional chance to jut your chin out and tell people you’re going to cut them. Not with your sharp wit, honey, that’s for sure.
There is certainly no tune to this grim cabaret, save the hollow tap of a defeated screenwriting automaton’s keyboard. Rather than shimmying your way through the banal afterthought of a plot, and accepting that the tough youth of the US do indeed ‘talk a lot of smack’, why not just cut out the crap by buying America’s Got Talent?
This fake emotion is only distracting from the moves, man, and it’s all too long-winded to be so-dire-it’s-funny. What you need is a post-cinema body-pop jarring enough to make you crumple to the floor in a tangle of limbs and crawl hastily back to real life.