The Fall of Dance: Dance Flick (2009) and Step Up 3 (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
9Dec/110

The Fall of Dance: Dance Flick (2009) and Step Up 3 (2010)

Ah, so that's where the genre went off to.

"You better roll bounce.  I'm gonna stomp your yard, and take honey with you 'cause she's coyote ugly."

Andrew COMMENTARYThese films are sort of starting to blend together, aren't they?  Or maybe it's just part of the natural process of aging.  As we get older time starts to speed up, events blend together and the years become meaningless until, poof, we're dead.  In the meantime we measure the passing of time with little rituals and milestones, some unique and others repeating, in order to attempt a celebration of it's passage.

The resurrection, evolution, and gradual decay of the modern dance film has reached it's inevitable climax at the hands of the Wayans brothers parody film.  What was once a source of some kind-hearted hilarity (see Blankman and Don't Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood) has become the polar opposite.  A parody in their hands means only one thing now - the death of a genre's creative streak.

To be fair, the Wayans' really try here and are mostly inoffensively boring (save for one idiotic misstep into the world of blackface).  But they're too caught up in the mechanisms of referential comedy to really make a good parody of dance films.  It's not as bad as the Friedberg-Seltzer abominations, but attempts a shotgun approach at mocking the films by incorporating elements of too many others.  Dance Flick tops out at 70 minutes of material, but manages to reference Black Snake Moan, Twilight, Hairspray, Little Miss Sunshine, and a hoard of other films.

Because hip-hop and Superbad went so well together the first time?

Where's the dancing?  Aside from an opening moment lifted directly from You Got Served the movie saves most of its dancing for the last ten minutes.  Dance Flick manages to get in some fun visual gags when it sticks to poking fun at the dance movie tropes and it's own dance scenes, but can't bring anything else noteworthy to the table.  This is why so many other dance movies in the later parts of this period ('08/'09) are so bad.  At the risk of sounding like an escaped extra from Dirty Dancing, they forgot about the fun of dance.

That's how we end up with How She Move's bland choreography and cut 'n paste rise to success, or Stomp The Yard's introduction leading straight into violence.  Modern hip-hop dance can be aggressive, but so can ballet, tango, and any other form of dance.  What started as a fun genre for a minority group that got no love turned into a turgid display of urban decay.  This might be enlightening if they offered any sort of commentary beyond "a dancer's life is hard", but tempering the approach with little humor and even less dancing is not a good balancing act.

The early milestones of Rize and You Got Served are now fading signposts of a better time.  For myself, I can only wish I was able to see past my snobbery and embrace the films for the cheesy and sometimes enlightening fun they could be at the time instead of looking back now and seeing them blend together.  Still, there's hope for the genre from this point onward, as evidenced by this lovely moment from Step Up 3:

As I've gone on about repeatedly, I adore Step Up 3, and this scene is a perfect example of why.  In one beautiful shot, SU3 manages to incorporate elements of Fred Astaire routines of old with new hip-hop dancing styles in a way that highlights just how similar the two are.  It's playful and fun, showcasing great dancing and a true love of dance.  Simplistic though it is, Step Up 3 (and to a lesser extent it's predecessor, but certainly not the first) remembers what all of these later films, and even Dance Flick, completely forgot.  A successful dance film, parody or otherwise, has got to remember to shake it goddammit.

The same team that produce Step Up 2 and 3 is coming back for a fourth installment in 2012 and the series continues to be a smash success.  In the meantime, aside from direct-to-DVD features like the terrible sequel to You Got Served, it's unlikely we'll see the same kind of glut of hip-hop dance films like this again.  For a while there if you wanted to see some acrobatic shuffling and hear great tunes while cracking a big smile, it was easy enough to find.  But now with So You Think You Can Dance and America's Best Dance Crew it is easy enough to find.

Which brings me back to my original point way back when I started looking at these films - they've had more influence on modern culture than any of my favorite directors.  Try as I might, it's hard to get my single-take 74 minute pilot about a Bavarian hunger strike inspired by Bela Tarr off the ground.  But I can certainly see some bootie shakin' if I flip through the channels long enough.

For better or worse, that's just fine by me.

Though I'm perfectly fine if it means never having to see something like this again.

Stay tuned Wednesday when me and Ryan unveil our next project, just in time to feel absolutely horrible for the new year.  I can't wait!

Posted by Andrew

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