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Review: 'Battlefield America' lacks natural rhythm

The dance competition film is light on its feet but weighed down by forced sentiment.

June 01, 2012|By Gary Goldstein
  • A scene from "Battlefield America."
A scene from "Battlefield America." (Brian & Barrett Pictures )

There's likely an audience for the cloying and dizzying hip-hop dance flick"Battlefield America,"but even the most forgiving viewers may feel like they've been underestimated — and underserved.

Writer-producer-director Christopher B. Stokes ("You Got Served") sledgehammers his way through his unconvincing, on-the-nose script involving Sean Lewis (actor-musician and "Served" alumnus Marques Houston), a slick, child-loathing, L.A. marketing executive arrested for a DUI and forced into community service — in Long Beach — as a kids' dance coach. Even by fantasyland standards, this setup is a stretch.

What follows is a hodgepodge of flimsy plotting, weak characterizations, unearned emotional shifts and forced sentiment as the talent-free Sean, with apparent help from a pro he brings on ("So You Think You Can Dance's" Russell Ferguson), somehow leads his misfit young charges into battle for an underground dance competition.

En route, Sean ludicrously derails his fast-lane career, plays dad to one of the troubled boys (Tristen Carter), woos the community center's comely director (Mekia Cox) and, of course, learns humility. It's all edited within an inch of its life.

The dance sequences are energetic but largely indistinguishable, with no effort made to put them in any real social or artistic context. And, while the starring youngsters may know their footwork, as actors they're fighting a losing battle.

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"Battlefield America." MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic elements involving some drug material, and for some language. Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes. In general release.

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