Saturday, June 16, 2012

Battlefield America

Kids Can Dance

Street dance films are the rage these days, and this genre probably won't see extinction at least in this decade, with the American Step Up franchise seeing the latest installment coming here in August, and the European Streetdance films having its latest release earlier this year. All versions now boast of the use of 3D to try and jack some extra revenue from its target teenage audience looking out for inspiration to hit the dance floors, and eyebrows definitely got raised when the dancers here are, well, kids.

Not that they're doing a bad job. I belong to the camp of those who feel a little bit awkward with children being dolled up and having their parents push them into participating in modelling or beauty pageants, and to take competition that come their way so seriously, you wonder if the lack of a proper, normal childhood will have any detrimental effects later in their lives. And here, a handful of kids no older than 12, get to move and groove in what I thought was gangsta style, some adopting the same attitude outside of the dance floor, and you'd wonder just what's going on behind the scenes in bringing these kids up. And to my surprise too are two of the kids, one being really androgynous, and the other I thought was female until it was revealed much later to be male instead.

That aside, the dance moves if you ignore the age, are pretty ok as far as the Step Up and Streetdance standards go, minus a notch. Being kids, they don't have the mileage chalked up in executing more fanciful sequences, the best of the best here being nothing more than a somersault flip that turned out to be the finishing move, which in the other mentioned films are nothing but a walk in the park. Clinically choreographed, it's a pity we don't get to see much dances by opposite parties since the preliminaries en route to the titular competition largely went by without being able to see much. Even the finals were just a one round three-cornered fight, ending with a dance off between two groups, following formula that's established for the genre.

And the excuse of a plot got wrapped around a high flying, arrogant executive Sean Lewis (Marques Houston) who got to serve time in community service, falling in love with the beautiful supervisor at the center played by Mekia Cox, and having to develop friendship and camaraderie with a group of troubled kids there by teaching them dance. It got a little bit tired with the usual man-hating-kids to man-warming-up-to-kids and vice versa, since you're likely to stay many steps in the way the plot develops, right down to expecting the type of challenges and road blocks that come their way. Think Dead Poets Society dumbed down by a lot, and you have what Battlefield America attempts to achieve. Even the way the kids get into trouble and the way their challengers behave, remind you of how the Karate Kid goes about dealing with adversary, right down to extrapolating that to the adult, supervisory level.

Director Chris Stokes may have seen an opportunity in adapting the modern street dance film formula for teens into something for and at the kids level, but it's street dance we're dealing with, that comes with a certain territory with it that's out of reach for the underaged. That made the film suffer a little bit in having a story that's rather generic and done ad nauseam, having to dwell in safe and feel good themes despite being a tale set in the underground dance scene, and ultimately felt something like after sitting through a moral education lesson. Still, for those involved in the world of street dance, I'm pretty sure this would just be another feather in the cap to try and be inspired by.

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