Thursday, April 12, 2012

Gays, Overweight, And White And Black People Will All Have Reason To Loathe Dance Flick.

The Good: One or two laughs
The Bad: Largely not funny, No real intelligence or insight on the genre, Lack of character development.
The Basics: If you have to see Dance Flick, wait for it on television or a free viewing, there are not enough laughs to justify paying for this movie.

When one discusses spoofs, the last few years the ". . . Movie" (Scary, Epic, Date, etc.) movies have dominated the genre. They have largely been random collections of dick and fart, fat, gay and interethnic jokes that are tossed together in a movie that includes innumerable visual references to recent films in pop culture. As a result, the creators of, for example, Disaster Movie, have not so much made any form of witty commentary on the conceits of disaster movies, so much as a movie that includes elements mocking recent disaster movies. Those same creative minds have also not been creating anything remotely cinematic or memorable - or even, largely, funny - with their latest endeavors. So, it is with some disappointment, then, that the creative Wayans clan has released something of the same caliber with Dance Flick.

Like the other ". . . Movie" movies, Dance Flick incorporates a few elements from movies involving street dancing, but then builds the film into something mostly lacking in cohesion, entirely lacking in wit, and unfortunately delivering surprisingly few laughs. Fans of Wayans productions like In Living Color will be incredibly disappointed as there is little in the film that satirizes dance movies so much as Dance Flick combines elements from a slew of recent dance movies and incorporates them into a bland collection of references that adds up to little worth watching. Sadly, those who want the best commentary on dance movies and their conceits would do better to simply watch "Peter's Daughter" on Family Guy, where the entire genre is broken down in a cutaway to "I'm rich and your poor, but let's dance together!" "Society's not gonna like that!" Sadly, this is all one truly needs to know and outside that element, Dance Flick is just a collection of jokes against fat people, homosexuals, and differences between white and black people.

A dance crew with A-Con and Thomas Uncles is participating in a riotous street dance battle when their surprise dance prodigy is knocked out of the competition and the pair loses the money they needed to pay back the gangster, Sugar Bear. As Tom and A-Con alternately plan to take out Sugar Bear and go on with their daily school lives, Megan White arrives at Musical High where she is adamant that she is not a dancer any more. Megan is now living in the ghetto with her father, following her mother's death, and at Musical High she meets and befriends Charity, a single mother. Charity is also Thomas's brother and after a debate in their drama class, Megan and Thomas begin to notice one another.

Megan and Tom begin to hang out, then, with Tom pushing Megan to dance again and simply get over the death of her mother. Hesitant, at first, Megan and Tom date, break up and dance as Sugar Bear comes after A-Con and Tom. As Sugar Bear's patience for getting his money runs out, a street dance competition is thrown that would allow Tom and A-Con to make things right . . . if only they had a crew.

First, the good. The last two minutes of the film are a parody of the movie Twilight (reviewed here!) which is actually funny and encapsulates much of the disappointment vampire movie buffs had with the film. This, though, has little to do with dance. Neither does the film's other laugh-out-loud joke, which involves Charity's "baby's daddy" coming to pick up their kid. The rest . . . meh. Of course, it was hard to get expectations up when the opening dance routines included things like Tom urinating on his opponents while dancing. Even the guy who got his head stuck up his own butt while dancing was worthy of a smile, but Tom's move was just gross and pointless.

Gross and/or pointless is how too much of the film actually is. The movie poster illustrates that the film includes visual parodies from Hairspray, Stomp The Yard, and Honey, but the problem is Dance Flick has about the depth of its own movie poster. Take, for example, the "parody" of Hairspray. There is a character who pops up looking like the girl from hairspray in body type, hair, and enthusiasm. She shows up and . . . that's about it. Dance Flick seems content to simply include the visual reference to the film Hairspray without actually making a comment on it. Similarly, Ray is parodied in a pretty harsh rant against blind people by Ray's mother and the blind boy appears for two scenes as an excuse to make jokes against blind people and reference Ray. Again, there is no real commentary on the movie, it is not so much a parody, just an entrance for jokes that have surprisingly little to do with dance movies.

In addition to blind people, overweight people don't get any respect in the movie. Sugar Bear is a thinly veiled mockery of overweight gangster types from Blacksploitation movies and the only clear reference is a visual allusion to Notorious. Otherwise, Sugar Bear acts as Dance Flick's intro to making fun of fat people. The only place this style of humor works is when the dance instructor mocks the female students - almost all of whom are stick-thin - about their weight, which might also be the film's only moment of genuine parody of the genre.

Gay people suffer less in Dance Flick from rampant homophobia as they do from stupid repetitive humor. There is a charming little dance number (set to the tune of Fame) where a young white boy comes out as gay. The song is innocuous enough, despite including virtually every stereotype about homosexuals. At least "gay" is not used as a pejorative and Dance Flick actually avoids any commentary on homosexuality, just the mockery of the stereotypes and the inclusion of bland, effeminate guys in dance movies. But where the film falls down are with the adult characters who make statements about homosexuality. The gay student's father is a closeted, overcompensating coach. The jokes he makes would be fine, were it not for a female coach who essentially makes the same jokes by having Megan and Nora wrestle while throwing money at them. Here, the humor is mortgaged by the fact that the jokes are repetitive.

This leads us to the interethnic humor. The Wayans humor here is based upon the idea that black and white people are different. People aren't just people in this film, they are black or white. Black women are portrayed as promiscuous, mouthy, disinterested, self-serving and generally stupid (Charity is a twenty-one year-old single mother who is still in high school). Black men are portrayed as violent, greedy, and sex-crazed. Megan and the white women are all naive, over-emotional and desperate for any validation. This type of humor dominates the movie more than any actual commentary on dance movies and it leaves us with remarkably little to write about; the humor is mostly a collection of stereotypes that mock the way different ethnicities are portrayed in these types of films.

Unfortunately, the way black men are portrayed as treating women illustrates a larger acceptance of misogyny than actually makes anything even remotely funny. Tom essentially beats up Megan in one scene (Tom is shown, Megan is not) and there are no consequences to it. Similarly, characters like Ms. Cameltoe (played by Amy Sedaris) make pretty sick jokes about women without actually staying on point (mocking dance movies). There is no real social benefit to the way this movie executes its jokes.

Thomas Uncles is played by Damon Wayans Jr. and my partner and I seemed to be the only people in the audience unsurprised (judging from the laughter) when the phrase "uncle tom" was finally trotted out. Damon Wayans Jr. is fine as Thomas, but he lacks any real fire or spark that his father portrayed in his sketch comedy. His portrayal is often bland and more subdued than electric. His blandness is only exceeded by that of Megan White's actress, Shoshana Bush. Bush has a great deal of luck; she went from being a character without a name in Fired Up! (reviewed here!) to being the lead in Dance Flick. Her character stands slackjawed through much of the movie and Bush does this fairly well. Still, there are moments when one catches the actress smirking.

Indeed, the only performances that left me with any hope for any members of the cast were the supporting roles of Charity and A-Con, played by Essence Atkins and Affion Crockett, respectively. Atkins has a wonderful sense of comic timing and she dives into the role of Charity with an energy that is captivating. Crockett's performance is essentially one extended impersonation of Ludacris' public persona, but he makes it work for him.

All in all, Dance Flick is a disappointment in that it makes less a mockery of the dance film genres as it does . . . well, people who are different from any other group. The Wayans who worked on the film call it well, that there is humor in mocking the differences between different people, but in the process, they mock too many of the people as opposed to mocking the mockery. In other words, they help reinforce some of the stereotypes as opposed to challenging them and the result is a film that does less to mock the dance film genre than it does offer this year's lackluster "parody." At least Amy Sedaris got more work.

For other dance movies, please visit my reviews of:
Dirty Dancing
Footloose (2011)
Step-Up 3-D


For other movie reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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