Dylan K. Shepherd, Marques Houston, Lynn Whitfield, Russell Ferguson, Tristen Carter, Mekia Cox
Christopher B. Stokes
Christopher B. Stokes, Marques Houston
Brian & Barrett Pictures
On the offbeat chance that you're actually contemplating seeing Battlefield America, a cross between You Got Served, Crossover and Bad News Bears, let me stop you right now.
Don't waste your time and hard-earned money on a film that will, in all likelihood, find itself on home video well before the end of 2012. Even if you're tempted by the film's faux warm n' fuzzy storyline about hip-hop kids and underground dancing, don't allow yourself to be so tempted that you become one of the few who will even discover that this film is actually in theaters.
While I'd dare say that Battlefield America isn't the worst film opening up in theaters this weekend, that title falls to Piranha 3DD, it's a dreadful waste of time disguised as a morality play. The storyline involves Sean Lewis (actor/singer Marques Houston), a sleazeball L.A. marketing exec whose punishment for a DUI is having to perform community service as a kids' dance coach.
Can you imagine? I didn't think so.
Aided by a dance pro he brings on (So You Think You Can Dance's Russell Ferguson), Houston somehow overcomes his own lack of talent and his own lack of (insert every positive human trait) and manages to lead his young charges into an underground dance competition that somehow got authorized by the courts as a placement for said community service.
Along the way, Houston's Lewis takes a paternal shine to one particular kid (Tristen Carter) and an even bigger shine to one particularly hot community center director (Mekia Cox) while, of course, learning lots of valuable life lessons about priorities, humility and making a difference as he watches his previously fast-paced career downward spiral into the toilet.
The dance sequences, rather than resembling even as inspiring as Step Up, are darkly lit, frenetic and just plain uninspired. The camera work actually resembles that of the largely unseen Wayne Brady underground basketball film Crossover. At 106 minutes, the film is woefully long and jam-packed with what feels like every known cliche' to man. The inevitable dramatic crisis, essentially involving Sean's having to choose between his young charges and his fast-paced life, feels forced and unconvincing.
Several of the kids in the cast are, despite their cliche'd dialogue, rather adorable and they alone manage to make the film interesting in moments. Unfortunately, they're stuck with indecipherable dance moves and rapid-cut editing disguised as smooth dancing.
This is one battle where everyone involved loses.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic