There’s a tradition in the dance films of the 80s and 90s, in that for every interesting scene of booty shaking, there must be at least twice as much cliched and painful screenwriting to support it. With “Flashdance,” “Footloose,” and the two “Breakin’” films, the formula thrived to decent box office, and occasionally became cinema legend.
The tradition continues in the new decade with “You Got Served,” a highly energetic dance drama about covert dance competitions that sinks to mind-boggling depths of awfulness when the characters feel compelled to speak. Much like its cousin, the recent Jessica Alba misfire “Honey,” “Served” has this outlandish notion that the story is the real glue to the film’s success. Writer/director Christopher Stokes has plenty of great dance footage to work with, and, unlike “Honey,” the filmmaker seems to enjoy the rumbling thunder of the underground hip-hop nation of dance-offs, often letting the “crews” just do their thing without much obstruction. The movie does present an overtly urban storyline that is about as fictional as the dancing world depicted, including stogie-suckling crime lords, “big momma” type grandmothers, and the thematically desperate shooting of a 9 year-old to get the film to a climax. Oh, and the two leads of the film are well meaning DRUG COURIERS. Clearly, there’s not a lot to root for.
Whenever the film finds itself in a hole, Stokes cuts back to the dance footage, making the picture seem like a less depressing venture than it was before. The tightly choreographed routines are fun to watch, and they’re backed with a booming soundtrack that helps these propulsive sequences out immensely. It’s a wonder why Stokes just didn’t cut out the Ebonics-heavy dialog (which actress Jennifer Freeman has a hard time with, much to the delight of the audience I attended the screening with) and afterschool special material that clogs up the momentum of his film, and just showcase the dances on their own. But I guess I shouldn’t expect the director of “House Party 4” to have that kind of foresight.
“You Got Served” is borderline racist (all the Caucasian characters are designated as pure evil right away), the acting atrocious (by such “thespians” as Raz B, Lil’ Fizz, and J-Boog), and Stokes has a borderline grip on what making a movie is all about. But all that is silenced once the dancing begins, and it’s hard to deny a mighty power like that.Rating: C