B-Boying, or breakdancing if you’re not up on your hip hop jargon, is apparently still a thing. Yes, even though the general populace lost interest with men spinning on pieces of cardboard in subway stations somewhere in the early 1990s, these men continued to spin on ever more intricate pieces of cardboard, eventually trading in their boomboxes for jumpsuits and their street cred for corporate donations in order to put on the Battle of the Year, a real global event that takes place every year to determine the best dance crew in the world. You’d be excused for not knowing this going into, or even coming out of, Battle of the Year 3D, which treats its subject matter with the same self seriousness of such landmark “sports” movies as The Wizard and Over The Top. Sadly, unlike those two examples, the ridiculous of the film’s premise is not cashed in on, and we’re left with a retread of well worn cliches that is sure to please almost no one.
Battle of the Year 3D is a dramatization of the documentary Planet B-Boy, and both films were directed by Benson Lee, who has directed only one non-B-Boy related film in his career. In fact, Benson enjoys his previous work so much that several parts of it are poorly shoehorned into his new film as Josh Holloway’s coach character is catching up on the newest dance moves. This coach, a once-great b-boy himself is rescued from his drunken stupor by his old friend (Laz Alonso), who has turned his previous b-boy success into founding a successful corporation of sorts that is vaguely b-boy related and never properly explained. Josh Holloway is hired to coach a team of dancers for the global battle, and from there the film hits every note that you’d expect a sports movie to hit.
All of your favorite cliches are here! Training montages! Locker room pep talks! An evil group of Germans AND an evil group of Asians! Unconventional training techniques! Two pairs of bitter rivals that work out their differences! Last minute disqualifications! After the opening 15 minutes setting up the story, anyone over the age of five could tell you exactly what each scene will contain, except instead of playing football or baseball, the athletes in this film are doing kickflips and spinning on their heads. Athletes including such luminaries of the sport as Flipz, Crumbs, Cliff Tan, Storm, Niggaz, Smockermon, Maxtendax, and Disco T. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the IMDB cast page for this film is arguably more surprising than the film’s overall plot.
Of course, this film also has “actors”, because putting names like Flipz and Crumbs at the top of a movie poster would most likely only lead to mass confusion. Chris Brown plays a dancer named Rooster who (SPOILERS) conveniently gets injured before the majority of the dance scenes take place, allowing him to star in the film without actually dancing in it. Josh Peck of Drake and Josh fame plays Franklyn with a Y, the coaches assistant, and Caity Lotz has a mostly pointless role as a choreographer whose biggest contribution to the proceedings is a scene where the dancers oogle her because she is a woman with female body parts.
Now, all of these transgressions could be forgiven if Battle of the Year had impressive dance sequences. After all, Saturday Night Fever isn’t exactly a tour-de-force dramatically. Sadly, outside of one performance, most of the dancing is edited to pieces in much the same vein as a fight scene from Transformers is. You can see some impressive moves, but they are wedged in-between reaction shots from the coach and his team, sweeping camera pans of the crews standing behind the dancers, and random girls in the audience screaming. During the actual Battle of the Year sequences, it gets so jumbled that the audience is only able to follow the action thanks to commentary from MTV lifer Sway, whose generic cries of approval are about as enthusiastic as Michael Cole when he is announcing wrestling holds on Monday Night RAW.
On top of all this, the film is chocked full of integrated advertising, including a laughable scene where Josh Peck has to state with a straight face that Sony tablets are “the future”, as well as an advertisement for the Playstation Vita where the dancers state with wondrous glee that you can “touch the back!” Looking at stills from this film, I am reminded of the promise I saw in the opening minutes, where its ridiculous premise is exposited verbatim at least three times. However, the crushing sameness of every scene afterwards soon took over, and as the credits rolled, all I had to show for it was a slight headache from the completely unnecessary 3D. I can almost guarantee that anyone reading this review has seen a movie that has shamelessly been ripped off here, and even if you’re still interested after all that, I’d wait six months and seek it out on one of it’s inevitably numerous showings on MTV. At least then you won’t have to spend $15 to see this soulless, uncreative, overlong and overserious mess of cliches.
In Theaters: September 20, 2013
Runtime: 109 min
Rating: Rated PG-13 for language and some rude behavior
Director: Benson Lee
Cast: Chris Brown, Josh Holloway, Laz Alonso, Josh Peck, Caity Lotz, Flipz
Distributor: Screen Gems
Official Site: http://www.battleoftheyear-movie.com/