The Austin Chronicle

Battlefield America

Rated PG-13, 106 min. Directed by Chris Stokes. Starring Marques Houston, Mekia Cox, Christopher Jones, Lynn Whitfield, Tristen M. Carter, Chandler Kinney, JoJo Wright, Gary Anthony Sturgis.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 8, 2012

Notable for how much it appears to have been inspired by the music video for Jason Nevins’ remix of Run-DMC's "It's Like That" and how little sweaty fun there is on hand, this hip-hoppy dance-off melodrama is about as funky as an Amish funeral. Okay, so maybe it's not quite that dispiriting, but Battlefield America can't hold a candle to Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo or even You Got Served – the latter of which was also helmed by Stokes. What it most resembles is Alan Parker's 1976 tweens-as-gangsters misfire Bugsy Malone, only with preadolescent dancers kicking and splitting their way through Long Beach, Calif.'s (apparently) wicked, underage dance-battle scene. Weird up, yo.

The setup, and indeed the entire film, reeks of yawn-inducing boilerplate plotting. Houston plays Sean Lewis, a budding marketing exec who gets slapped with 120 hours of community service after a DUI arrest. Fearing for his manicure, he opts (with the aid of Mekia Cox's youth-outreach counselor) to teach the local hoodrats some dance moves – even though he's in no way qualified. Nonetheless, the lil' scamps (resplendent in outfits that look cobbled together from The FP's castoffs and Walmart's bargain bin) take to Mr. Lewis like My Little Crackheads to a vial of yellow rock. It's standard issue overearnestness and sassy little mat rats from thereon out, replete with jittery, hopelessly edited battles that stop and start with zero rhyme and even less reason. Will Mr. Lewis forego his hyper-ambitious straight career in favor of hanging with the mohawked and mop-topped urchins? Is MCA spinning on his postmortem prayer wheel? Am I going to need to watch both Tougher Than Leather and Krush Groove just to get my head back on track? Yes to all three. You say the roof is on fire? Let it burn. Maybe it'll collapse and wipe this ill-conceived disaster off the face of the earth.

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