It’s not secret that I’m a big fan of the Step Up franchise. No those movies are not going to win any awards for the acting or writing, but then again, that’s not what you watch them for. It’s the dancing that these films are built around that is jaw-dropping, inspiring, and if nothing else, entertaining as hell. With Step Up 5 a year away, what was I ever to do to get my dance fix at the movie theater?
That’s where Battle of the Year enters the fray. Whereas the Step Up films tend to include an array of dance styles such as hip-hop, modern/expressionist and ballet, Battle of the Year focused exclusively on b-boys and their breakdancing skills. As the story goes, there’s an annual tournament in Europe where the best teams from around the globe throw down on an international stage, each vying to claim their spot as the best of the best.
Josh Sawyer (Lost, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) stars as a former b-boy himself and standout basketball coach who is tasked with assembling the best team the USA can offer. With the Americans having not won the tournament in over a decade, he has his work cut out for him. Singer Chris Brown also stars and shows off his incredible skills with the likes of a very talented dance cast. His attitude and arrogance lends an internal conflict that exists within the team while their struggles to be the top dog on the dance scene must also be achieved. It’s a good little mix that adds a little more depth to what is otherwise specifically a dance film.
The story is pretty believable and succeeds in staying grounded, bringing a variety of realistic struggles such as tragedy, disappointment and just the everyday grind of trying to get by. Then there’s the dancing. Without question, it is one top tier performance after another. I love watching breakdancing or any other type of hip hop dance for that matter. The only concern I found here is how repetitive it felt in this movie. There are a couple rehearsal moments and a lights-out performance at the tournament that had a whole lot of wow factor. Combined, those moments may have equated to five minutes.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m very well aware of the tremendous talent, strength, balance and diligence it takes to do this stuff, but head spins and backflips can quickly wear out their welcome when variety has gone astray. I was never bored watching this film, which is more than I can say for this year’s Oblivion or The Great Gatsby. However, the choreography didn’t knock my socks off. More often than not, I felt like I had just witnessed these moves a few minutes earlier. Yes a good portion of the film is the team preparing for the world tournament so repetition is bound to happen. From an entertainment standpoint though, a home run it was not.
Lastly, the 3D…how could I forget?! Because the 3D in this film was rather forgettable, that’s how. While the aforementioned Gatsby nearly succeeded in putting me to slumber, it did have some of the best use of 3D I have ever come across. For Battle of the Year, it looked more intermittent than constant. Trust me, you can pass on this one in the theater, miss the 3D effect and have an enjoyable experience renting the 2D disc when the time comes and still be happy. Save your cinema dollars and skip this one at the theater, but grab it from Netflix or Redbox when it makes its home debut.