Susan Granger's review of 'Battle of the Year'
Inspired by his documentary "Planet B-Boy," which presented break-dancing teams from 18 nations competing in Braunschweig, Germany, filmmaker Benson Lee fictionalizes the same concept, obviously trying to follow in the footsteps of the "Step Up" franchise of dance movies.
Jason Blake (Josh Holloway, best known as Sawyer on TV's "Lost) is a former street dancer and widower who has become an embittered alcoholic following the death of his wife and teenage son in an automobile accident. He's chosen by his hip-hop mogul pal Dante Graham (Laz Alonso) to coach an all-American underdog "dream team" of 13 disparate break dancers from different street crews who are preparing
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for a top-tier tournament in Montpellier, France, hoping to bring the championship back to America for the first time in 15 years.
With only three months to train, it's a formidable task, particularly since two of the top dancers -- rivals Do Knock (Jon Cruz) and Rooster (Grammy-winning recording artist Chris Brown, even more notorious for his history of domestic abuse) -- are feuding.
Scripted by Brin Hill and Chris Parker, it's crammed with cliches, like "There's no `I' in team," and predictable from start to finish, even with the split-screen training montages, choppy editing and inherently intimidating South Korean team.
On the other hand, the incredibly athletic dance sequences are amazing, whether viewed in digital 3D or traditional 2D -- with credit going to real-life choreographer Dave Scott ("Step Up 3-D," "Stomp the Yard"), along with Rich and Tone Talauega.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Battle of the Year" is an all-too-familiar 4, filled with fancy, if frenetic footwork and a set-up for a sequel.