Josh Holloway     Laz Alonso     Chris Brown     Josh Peck     Caity Lotz


BATTLE OF THE YEAR


 Benson Lee, the director of Battle of the Year filmed a documentary about break dancing called Planet B-Boy (2007), upon which this narrative feature film is based, with a script by Brin Hill and Chris Parker.  Lee was a fan of break dancing in the 80’s then rediscovered it in the 90’s and became intrigued by the artistic components and skilled acrobatics. He could not believe that the country where it originated no longer competed seriously in the world championships.  Lee is Korean-American, and was impressed that even the Koreans made a bigger showing at the tournaments than the U.S., where it originated.

 So in this story, a promoter of Hip Hop, Dante Graham (Laz Alonso) looks up his old friend who used to be a notable coach for a basketball team and talks him into coaching an American break dance team.  He thinks he already has the makings of one—boys from L.A.—but when Coach Blake (Josh Holloway) finally agrees to take on the job, he insists on starting completely new and putting together a “dream team” recruited from the winners of a contest among some of the best dancers in the States.  After they select 26, they only have three months to train, so it seems like an impossible task.  But Blake wisely works on team building—another challenge, since all the recruited players have inflated egos—and thus begins a long journey of trying to qualify and compete at the world championship tournament in Paris, France.

 Although break dancing is the subject, individual stories and relationships are just as much a part of the plot, not the least of which is Coach Blake’s own background.  The Chris Brown character has a hostile, competitive struggle with one of the other dancers, which threatens to undermine the group at several junctures.  The relationship with clever humor in it is Blake’s connection with his assistant coach, Franklyn (Josh Peck), a young Jewish man who can’t break dance, but is obsessed with it.  The two bond immediately at their first meeting, and from then on, Franklyn serves as a perfect foil when Blake loses his cool and needs to be re-centered.  When Franklyn finally talks Blake into hiring a choreographer and charges Franklyn with procuring one, she turns out to be a beautiful blonde female, Stacy (Caity Lotz).  Surprise, everyone!  Stacy is also a welcome addition into the male cauldron teeming with testosterone.

 It is rewarding to watch as the team gradually comes together and gets to a place where they can give other teams some competition.  When Stacy first appears, she gets the usual catcalls and come-ons, but she establishes herself when she replies, “I’m not into boys; I’m into men.”  And they do mature during their training, and Coach Blake seems to be roused out of his personal funk in the process.

 There is plenty of break dancing in the film for aficionados, and the script—while not brilliant—is moving and inspiring.


Grade:  C  

By:  Donna R. Copeland