Welcome to Battle of the Year, a cross-promotional synergetic platform for [sponsor 1], [sponsor 2], and [sponsor 3] to capitalize on director Benson Lee’s passionate vision for [obscure dance sport], because dancing is, like, profitable in the urban sector. The movie stars [actor grateful for a lead role] and [music star looking to diversify], butting heads but also learning lessons from each other as they prepare for [sponsor’s name’s] Battle of the Year. “Battle” sounds super intense, right? Will the [tired character trope 1] and [tired character trope 2] in this band of misfits lead America to greatness against the feared [rising Asian power]? Find out in this all-digital, three dimensional, totally really legit uplifting drama, which is definitely not a cynical amalgamation of [classic sports movie 1], [classic sports movie 2], and/or [classic sports movie 3].
Some of the dance sequences are exciting, in a, “I’ve downed a medium coke too quickly” kind of way. And Chris Brown gets punched in the face. So that’s cool, I guess?
Look, this movie is awful and I paid the 3D price so that you don’t have to. If you must see it, if your cousin was a PA or something, just go for 2D. Battle of the Year is, if nothing else, a manifestation of the worst fears cinephiles have about the changeover to digital. The images have a slickness that makes you feel kinda dirty, and the dance sequences are shot with the kind of flicker you’d expect from a Bourne chase scene; what you’re left with is a vague sense of frenetic action rather than actual appreciation of the dance routines. It undercuts, alas, how impressive the routines probably are and the film’s main inspirational conceit, namely that the Dream Team’s success might (re?)vitalize a B-Boy movement in America.
Just because Chris Nolan can get by without legibility doesn’t mean everyone can.
Beer three is brought to you by Sony. I would normally just make a drinking game rule when product placement is super egregious, but my god, if you drank along to all of that here, you’d OD for sure, and your asshole friends would probably Vine it, and then you wouldn’t even get to use your Sony Xperia tablet to watch your internal organs fry up, as in a barrel of sulfuric acid, and disintegrate. Because you would be dead.
On another topic, if the internet can collectively will Firefly and Veronica Mars into movies, as well as in some measure pressure the return of Dan Harmon to Community, surely, surely we can do something for Josh Holloway? His former basketball coach Jason Blake is a haunted alcoholic (whose alcoholism is never an impairing factor nor addressed in any way) and the audience’s supposed vehicle to convert to the joys of the B-Boy scene. Part of the trouble with the film’s pacing is that it takes Jason like over half an hour to adjust to this form of dancing, although it’s also revealed that he used to dance? Before he was an awesome basketball coach? And his wife and kid died in a car accident? Pick a high school sports movie trope, guys, and for god’s sake, just sink everything into one inspirational speech right before a training montage. Holloway had to do like twenty of those, and none of them were cool. What’s going on with Justified next season, or that new pirate show on Starz? They could use another pirate, right?
Let’s get to the rest of the cast, because aside from the novelty of someone yelling at Chris Brown “Why are you such an asshole?!” the story does them no favors. Brown’s character, for instance, is named “Rooster,” presumably because while the screenwriter was procrastinating on Urban Dictionary, he realized that cock is, in some circumstances, also used as the name for a male chicken. Brown has on-screen magnetism and is a talented dancer, to be sure, but he nor anyone else can transcend the terrible script. Josh Peck is Holloway’s assistant transported here from a mumblecore comedy, and acquits himself better with the hamstrung dialogue than most. It’s a damned shame everything behind the camera is so bungled, because the breakers can dance. One sequence that doesn’t get in their way – not coincidentally done all in one shot – allows their physical movements to draw our eyes, and coax the breath out of our chests.
Ultimately, the problems with Battle of the Year can be traced squarely back to Benson Lee. His passion for B-Boying is undoubtedly present, but in his zeal to pass that along to audiences, he over-edits a jittery mess of camerawork on a Frankenstein’s creature of a sports script. Battle of the Year doesn’t even have the decency to go full-on campy, to come back around to Trolls 2 level of everything we love that can go wrong in a movie. This one is earnestly incoherent most of the time, and the rest of it more than a little boring.
No matter who wins Battle of the Year, as if such a soulless piece of corporate dreck deserves the word ‘matter,’ you are going to lose.
Take a Drink :whenever Josh Holloway drinks.
Take a Drink: whenever Benson Lee’s 2007 documentary, Planet B-Boy appears onscreen or is mentioned.
Take a Drink: whenever Rooster is a (snigger) cocky SOB, but so talented, damnit!
Finish Your Drink: when the feared Korean team does their routine. It’ll make the rest of the movie feel quicker, promise.