'Battle of the Year' Review: Finally, a Breakdance Movie Centered Around the Old White Guy
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'Battle of the Year' Review: Finally, a Breakdance Movie Centered Around the Old White Guy

By Dustin Rowles | Film Reviews | September 20, 2013 | Comments ()


The logline to Battle of the Year is about all you need to know to understand exactly what kind of movie it is, and what you can expect from it: “Battle of the Year attracts all the best teams from around the world, but the Americans haven’t won in fifteen years. Dante enlists Blake to assemble a team of the best dancers and bring the Trophy back to America where it started.”

It’s that straightforward. Battle of the Year is basically a very bad version of Lean on Me combined with a marginally better written version of a Step Up installment (pick one. Any one. They’re all the same). Battle of the Year also happens to be loosely based on a much-better received documentary, Planet B-Boy, from the same director, Benson Lee, who is clearly better at tracking the evolution of breakdancing than building a conventional plot around it.

The only surprise in Battle of the Year is that the Lean on Me figure, Blake, is played by Sawyer from Lost (Josh Holloway), which is straight-up bananas. He’s a once great B-boy dancer (?) turned inspiring basketball couch turned broken down drunk after the death of his wife and child in a car accident. An old B-Boy teammate played Laz Alonso brings him in to build a dream team to compete in the world championships. He assembles a team (which includes a character played by Chris Brown, who goes the entire movie without once beating any girlfriends), and he whips them into shape with tough love. They respond by becoming a team instead of 13 individuals, and they go on to become strong competition in the worldwide championships.

The whole exercise comes straight out of the dance-movie formula book. The situations are cliche, every word spoken is a series of idioms ad faux inspirations quotes, and in the end, the teacher learns as much from his students as the students learn from him. Guh.

That said, as dance movies go (and I’ve seen every single one of them), it’s not any better or worse than the others. The B-Boy (which is the original term for breakdancing) is sick, and the choreography — as it is in almost all of these films — is outstanding. There’s even one feat the dancers pull off in the penultimate round of competition that I’ve never seen before. It was impressive, and as always, I have a great admiration and appreciation for what the dancers and choreographers can pull off in these films. In my opinion, Dave Scott — who has also served as choreographer on two Step Up films and Stomp the Yard — should get higher billing than the director, and paid more, as well.

However, the most important thing, of course, is that — in a movie filled with characters of all different races, colors, and ethnicities — the white guy gets to be the real hero in the end, the coach who brought this ragtime team of misfits to their moment of glory and built more than a team, he built a “family.” You’d hate to see in the rare Hollywood film with a wide-ranging mixture of races and ethnicities for someone besides the white guy to the all the credit.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Pedant alert!

    " the coach who brought this ragtime team of misfits..."

    Shouldn't that be "ragtag"? Unless they've set a dance routine to Scott Joplin.

  • tamatha_uhmelmahaye

    Dustin - I love that you have seen all the dance movies. Love it. And I simply cannot wrap my head around the fact that Sawyer is supposed to be an original B-Boy. My brain cannot compute this information.

  • denesteak

    I'm really pissed because I make it a point to watch any and all dance movies in the theater, but now I can't see this because Chris Brown is in it and i refuse to give him my money.

    Yes, I am that girl (in regards to dance movie) and that girl (in regards to a hardline Christ Brown hater).

  • Ben

    I think 'that girl in regards to hardline Chris Brown hater' can generally just be summed up with the much simpler 'sane'

  • Ben

    I'm torn between really wanting to see this because I fucking love this shit, and not wanting to give any money to anything that Chris Brown has ever touched.

  • Lauralyn

    I hate myself for knowing I'm going to see this. Probably in theaters. I'm such a sucker for dance movies.

  • Uriah_Creep

    (which includes a character played by Chris Brown, who goes the entire movie without once beating any girlfriends)

    Baby steps, Chris.

  • Batesian

    There's always the outtakes.

  • emmalita

    My bff's husband LOVES dance movies. I read him the review just now and he is SO EXCITED. As he said, "finally a dance movie I can identify with."

    Sadly I read right over Basketball couch without even noticing.

  • L.O.V.E.

    Emmalita, he's not a Basketball "couch". That makes no sense.

    He's a loveseat.

  • emmalita

    Well you are the comment of the week commenter of the week, so I shall bow to your greater wisdom.

  • marya

    Does that mean he used to be a La-Z-B-Boy?

  • L.O.V.E.

    Well, to get to the championship his team had to win the Sectionals.

  • marya

    Yeah, yeah! And they dominated the competition like the Ottoman empire dominated Europe! Get it?

    ...dammit. I'm never good at puns. Should have quit while I was ahead.

  • emmalita

    Judging from that neck beard, I'd say his inner La-Z-B-Boy is close to the surface.

  • "inspiring basketball couch" is my favorite typo of the month. Do not change it.

  • Xikar

    Good, the feminism slant was taking it's toll on the articles, glad we moved back to chastising whites. Sorry Chris Brown couldn't be the REAL hero, but rest assured he is in our hearts, us dear readers.

  • richkime

    Yeah but the chastising of whites is just a token here. It's obvious this site really cares only about chastising men in general, because thats what they talk about the majority of the time. This talk of racism is just window dressing, not real diversity.

  • You know, it's whiny fucks like you two that suck all the fun out of being on the pointiest part of the social pyramid. If life were a video game 'white male' would either be the lowest difficulty setting or a cheat code, one of the two. Enjoy it and try not to be a douchebag because you occasionally have to read articles about feminism or minority representation on a website.

  • emmalita

    I am high-fiveing you from afar.

  • guest

    What a stupid statement to make. It's just a stupid generalization to say, 'you have it easy guys' when you know nothing about these men.

    'It's okay to be racist or sexist towards white men, because they're just whiny fucks who have it easy, you know.'

    Don't you think being sexist/racist to anyone is troublesome, and doesn't really achieve anything?

  • marya

    While Quatermain's statement isn't very nuanced (and is kinda mean-spirited), he/she isn't wrong. White males have advantages in our society simply by being born who they are. Pointing it out is not bigotry, so, no, it's not troubling.

    It might be troublesome, though, so you got me there.

  • guest

    Really? Every white male is afforded the same level of 'advantages' at birth?

    Again, it's a very simple way of looking at things that doesn't really solve anything.

    In the same vain, someone doesn't deserve to be called a 'douchebag' because they're A. white males & B. disagree with the contents of an article. It isn't a high level of debate nor is it in any way clever.

  • marya

    "Every white male is afforded the same level of 'advantages' at birth?"

    Nope. Not the same level. But advantages, yes.

    No rational person is going to argue that a white man born in poverty has more advantages than a minority woman born to extreme wealth and privilege. But that's pretty irrelevant to the debate we're having. It's like arguing that global climate change doesn't exist because yesterday it snowed.

    Looking at the numbers, white men generally make more money than their counterparts in the same positions, more often rise to positions of power and influence, control more of the wealth in our country, live in safer neighborhoods, and (I know this is going to be inflammatory) they definitely have advantages in the "not getting murdered or raped" categories.

    You're right about the douchebag comment. Saying hateful things to strangers seems to be a fundamental part of internet debates. It's kind of a miracle pajiba is as civilized as it is.

  • I'll admit it is a bit of an assumption that the original complainants were white men, but since women and minorities don't generally complain about having to read articles about feminism or minority representation, it's an assumption I think is safe to make.

    I didn't say it was OK to be racist towards white men. When you live on the pointy part of the social pyramid and enjoy the privileges that go with it and then someone comes along and points out that that is what you're doing, that's not racism, it's just perspicacity.

    As a straight white male, I possess a lot of explicit and implicit privileges in society and while I enjoy those privileges to the fullest extent that is commensurate with good taste and my own moral code, I'm not going to pretend like they are not, in fact, privileges. I'm not in a tearin' hurry to give them up for anybody, but it'd also be nice to see other people be able to enjoy them too.

    I'm going to cap this off by noting that it's amazing how prescient 'Bloom County' was and how relevant it still manages to be:

  • guest

    Right. You're brining in a lot of baggage that is irrelevant to what is being discussed.

    The article states that the 'main problem' with the movie is that a white guy is the main character. The commentors above criticize that and the recent slew of articles within the same vain.

    Your comment is still very general. Some white men have certain privileges that others don't - but its silly to say that all white men have easy lives and therefore have no need to complain.

    What your comment does is take a very complex situation and simplifies it to where to a point in which it is almost meaningless.

  • The Replicant Brooke

    Chris Brown is in this, so are movie theaters installing those spring arm boxing glove things to make it more realistic?

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