‘Battle of the Year’ trots out the usual B-Boy cliches

  • By Roger Moore McClatchy-Tribune News Service
  • Wednesday, September 18, 2013 3:39pm
  • LifeGo-See-DoMovies

Dance battle movies — “Step Up” and its ilk — have become the musicals of their generation.

They may be formulaic in the extreme, generic in their romances and be peopled by character “types.” But they’re athletic extravaganzas celebrating great skill and the art of B-Boys and B-Girls.

They may wear the veneer of “street” and “edgy,” but parents appreciate how harmless they are.

“Battle of the Year” touches on that, how the rest of the world has embraced B-Boy culture, but how they’re no longer perceived as cutting edge or “cool” in the United States.

That worries the Sean Combs-like impresario, Dante (Laz Alonso).

“How long before hip-hop isn’t cool?”

He’s got to protect his music, dance and fashion empire by putting American B-Boys back on top. He hires an old dance buddy, W.B. (for “Wonder Bread”), now a grieving, alcoholic ex-basketball coach (Josh Holloway of “Lost”).

W.B. has to get himself up to speed on the current state of dance, then recruit and coach a “dream team” of the best of America’s best to take on the rest of the world, which has passed America by and long dominated the annual B-Boy Olympics known as “BOTY,” the Battle of the Year.

That team consists of assorted arrogant, chip-on-their-shoulder show-offs, because that’s what it takes to succeed at this. Actual star dancers such as Do Knock and Flipz are mixed in with others, including singer Chris Brown.

And helping out coach is Jewish hip-hop authority “Franklyn with a Y,” played by Josh Peck. He doesn’t dance himself. He’s Jewish, he explains.

But there are Jewish B-Boys. And combat vet B-Boys and gay B-Boys, all of whom try out for the team. They fight, they insult one another, they learn from a choreographer (Caity Lotz), they bond and you know the rest.

The director of the definitive documentary on the worldwide phenomenon, “Planet B-Boy,” co-wrote and directed this, and immodestly has characters watch that film and sing its praises. Very B-Boy of him.

The beauty of “Step Up” and all its tired imitators is that the audience they’re shooting for has no idea that there have been 20 or 30 movies exactly like this one that came before it.

“Battle of the Year” (2 stars)

Another in a long line of the “musicals of the day”: dance battles. An impresario played by Laz Alonso works to keep his B-Boy team relevant. With Josh Peck, Caity Lotz, Chris Brown, Josh Holloway.

Rated: PG-13 for language, rude behavior.

Showing: Alderwood 7, Everett Stadium, Marysville, Pacfific Place, Thornton Place.

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