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?”
MOVIE PREVIEW: Battle of the Year
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.
“My people were not exactly ’chosen’ to be B-Boys,” he cracks. 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.