Bad, as in bad
B-boy saga leaves former breaker wanting to upchuck, not uprock
When I was 16, I was a mediocre, physically ungifted b-boy in a Southern California crew called “Decepticons.” Had matching T-shirts and everything. At 16, I couldn’t do one-fiftieth of the moves the amazing breakers in Battle of the Year, the new movie directed by Benson Lee, do. But I could have written it.
Or, I could have come up with the seed idea, anyway: The best American b-boys form a “Dream Team” and train to regain our nation’s faded glory at the The Battle of the Year, commonly referred to as the “World Cup of b-boying.” In fact, I think I may have actually dreamt up just that with my crew over giant bowls of Captain Crunch.
But it must have taken a seriously cynical corporate writing team or, perhaps, a Previously Profitable Plot algorithm to have filled in the rest.
Russell Simmons-esque Hip-hop Mogul (why are they always “moguls?”) Dante “D” Graham (Laz Alonso) is sponsoring the crew whose mission it is to bring back the gold to the nation who started this whole hip-hop thing. “D” hires his down-and-out former breaking buddy, Jason Blake—played by Josh Holloway, who will forever be Sawyer, the conman-with-a-heart-of-gold and scruffy, romance-novel-cover good looks from the hit TV show Lost—to mold the b-boys from a bunch of punks into a team. Blake, aka “Wonder Boy,” aka “W.B.,” aka “Really, Sawyer as a former b-boy?” aka the movie’s Relatable Caucasian Center, is a tragically widowed former college-basketball coach with a drinking problem and depression-denoting stubble.
W.B. (Sawyer!) is aided by assistant coach Franklyn (Josh Peck), the other Relatable Caucasian Center (demographic group 18-34), and Stacy (Caity Lotz), the Hot Blond and very flat (in character terms, only, of course) choreographer who deals with the crew’s unrealistically over-the-top sexual harassment with ’tude that earns their respect. The crew is made up of real, talented b-boys with names like “Flipz” or “Rooster”(played by R&B star and famed domestic abuser Chris Brown) who can’t stop fighting because they’re, you know, urban.
Borrowing from reality TV, one dancer is kicked out of the crew each week until the final 13 are chosen, while “D” drops in from time to time to reward the remaining guys with products from Puma or Sony (“This is the new Sony Tablet! It’s the future!” says one).
W.B. (Sawyer!) and his assistants put the boys through all sorts of training montages until they are finally ready to face the Koreans, led by a b-boy whose blank-eyed stare says “I will crush you” without ever having to pay him speaking-role fees.
Like the well-received documentary on the same subject directed by Lee in 2007 (Planet B-boy), Battle of the Year could have been cool (says my inner-teenager). Instead, it’s yet another unintentionally funny American Embarrassment, whose sickening product placement will make you want to upchuck, not uprock, and whose played plotlines will leave your head spinning—and not in the cool upside-down way.