How She Move
Directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid. Starring Rutina Wesley, Dwain Murphy, Tre Armstrong, Kevin Duhaney. (2008, PG-13, 98 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Jan. 25, 2008
Minus any telltale punctuation, one may not initially know how to read the title – is it a question? a warning? a declaration of intent? – but once the feet start flying in this Canadian film about step dancing, any numskull can finish the sentence: She move something fierce. But we’ll get to that. In an awkward opening narration, Raya (Wesley) lays it out for us: Her family’s savings have been wiped out in an unsuccessful attempt to get her older sister clean, forcing Raya to leave her tony boarding school and rejoin her Jamaican-born parents back in the projects. Raya isn’t happy to be home, and neither is her old crowd: Turns out she lit out of the neighborhood fast and burned a few bridges along the way. Some people, at least, remember her fondly, like Bishop (Murphy), who runs an underdog step crew (the film introduces him midperformance, his step keeping time to the apropos refrain "I Love My Boots”; should the film’s current title not translate internationally, I suggest I Love My Boots as a more-than-adequate substitute). Raya shrugs off his advances; at first glance, she seems a serious, maybe humorless, girl who looks far younger than her years. Looks are deceiving – when a rival girl challenges her to a step battle, Raya drops her jacket and goes to town. Sure, she gets schooled, but so it goes in any competition film – you gotta start at the bottom and climb your way up. How She Move hits most every beat the genre has to offer, even borrowing a few moves along the way (the ripping-off of a rival’s routine also figured prominently in Bring It On). In short, there aren’t many surprises here, and even if there were, they’d be low-lit and fuzzy (How She Move, which screened at last year's Sundance, wears its low budget on its sleeve; the upshot is a cast of unknowns who are naturals). Following the genre’s natural trajectory, this one culminates in Raya and Bishop teaming up for the annual Stepmonster Competition in Detroit, where the competition flies fast and furious in a montage that accents step’s astonishing meld of artistry and brute physicality (although any highlight reel must begin and end with a glorious slow pan of denim-clad booty). This kind of a dance film lives and dies by the routines, and this one wins: Mixing elements of gymnastics, karate, and break with the almighty step – an exceedingly polite term for what is really an awesome stomp – the dance sequences will root out the beat in even the sorriest Bandstand bystander … although, manifest in this white-girl wallflower, the beat resembled nothing so much as restless legs syndrome. We can’t all move something fierce, you know.