This film sounds like a marketing commitee's dream: "You know what's hot with the kids right now? Street Dance. Y'know, like them lads who won Britain's Large Talons or whatever it's called? It's all the rage, apparently. You can't walk down the street without some young ragamuffin stepping up and busting a move all over our face, innit. And you know what else is all the rage? 3D movies. You can't go into a cinema without somebody throwing stuff out of the screen or pointing summat at your eyeballs these days. So, why don't we combine these things and make a fucking mint out of the mindless drones who'll queue up for any old tat as long as it features the latest hip gimmick? We make a 3D movie about street dance, stick a load of current pop hits on the soundtrack, and we can even get those lads from Britain's Got Tarrant to pop in for five minutes so we can stick their names on the poster. Bingo."
It's a foolproof plan. There is, however, one unforeseen potential drawback:
"StreetDance" is absolutely fucking abysmal.
It is easily the worst film I have ever reviewed on this blog. The "plot" is, of course, cliched and formulaic to a fault. A spunky young girl named Carly must whip her disparate dance crew into shape in time for the big dance-meet, but along the way they have to muck in with a bunch of ballet dancers for some inane reason. Will the kids from two worlds be able to put their differences aside and get their shit together in time? Will they perform some unprecedented dance alchemy and merge ballet and street-style into a shiny new form of movement hitherto known only to people who've seen "Save the Last Dance" or "Step Up" or maybe even "Bring It On"? Have a cocking guess.
Unintentionally hilarious from the word go, the film begins with a voice-over monologue of such dribbling banality I could scarcely believe what I was hearing. A voice with all the emotional conviction of an eight-year-old in a school assembly lays out the motivation for our lead character, and attempts to communicate the importance of the world of StreetDance. It amounts to something like: "When I was a kid, I used to dance infront of the mirror in my bedroom. Then I left home and joined a street dancing crew. I like StreetDance". Fucking hell, it's like the new "Goodfellas".
It soon becomes apparent, however, that this is a perfect introduction to our lead. Nichola Burley as Carly turns in a performance of such monumental vapidity that I began to think she was suffering from some autistic inability to understand human emotion. This is some new, undiscovered depth of bad acting, buried somewhere beneath the Hollyoaks reject pile, which consists of reciting lines as if from an autocue and occasionally slipping into abstract enunciations which seem to indicate you've never actually heard anybody speak in your entire life.
Obviously, she isn't aided any by a script as blunt as a spoon (containing such pearlers as "That's where StreetDance started: On the streets") that forces and reinforces uncomfortable exposition through its character's gobs (I lost count of the amount of times the phrase "UK championships" was used in the first 15mins), and creates gales of unintentional laughter with over-earnest exchanges ("This crew's gonna fail!") and hilariously misjudged nomenclature (The dance troupe "Flawless" show up as a villainous crew known as "The Surge", leading to such gems as "I can't stop thinking about The Surge" and "I've been trying to fit you into a Surge-shaped box").
Of course, none of this really matters to the film's target audience. You watch an action movie for the action, a porn movie for the sex and a dance movie for the fucking dancing, right? Who cares if the leading lady is a charisma void of such magnitude you can feel what little charm you possess being vaccuumed clean out of your soul every second she's on screen? She must have been cast for her ability to shake her ass, right?
I suppose. There's no denying that Burley looks good in her variety of cartoonish "street" clothing, and they make the most of her physical presence by featuring a few fleeting scenes of gratuitous underwear exposure, but when it comes to getting her funk on, she is surprisingly un-awesome. She's supposed to be the leader of this "crew", and yet she is probably the least remarkable dancer of them all, often fading into the background while some of the other folks let their groove do the talking.
This renders her almost like a supporting player in the "action" scenes and mutes any potential compensation for her laughable dramatic capabilities.
Elsewhere, the dance scenes in general are decidedly lacking in anything truly spectacular or inventive, and are largely derailed by some seriously sloppy editing. For a film about dancing, it has very poor rythm. There are awkward pauses and jarring sound-edits galore, plus; when you cajole a bunch of showmen such as Britain's Got Balance-winners "Diversity" (the ones who throw that little kid with the massive 'fro around) into being in your film, you'd better not chop up their routine so as to make it absolutely incoherent, all the while cutting away to reaction shots of your inferior-boogying cast looking amazed at what we - the fucking audience - are missing.
And, incidentally, the main dude from Diversity has a brief scene with Ms Burley which goes along the lines of "How's it going? Is this your new crew? Nice one. We should get a drink later and catch up, yeah? Bye!" and he fully blows her off the screen with an understated and naturalistic nugget of a performance. I was all like: "Bring him back! Why isn't he the main character? He's a better dancer AND actor than her!" and then the voice in my head said "But he doesn't look as good as her in a tight little tank top." So I piped down.
So what does work? Well, a couple of the set-pieces are entertaining enough, particularly an energetic nightclub battle between our heroes and Flawless' squad of funky fascist-types (only partially spoiled by some ill-conceived bullet-time effects) and a nice movie-moment when the two leads share an impromptu ballet/street romantic run-around on a rooftop, and George Sampson pretty much steals the show.
Sampson is a baby-faced goober who was on another of those talent shows, and crops up here in his acting debut. He bumbles around the peripherals of the film like Arnie Grape in a baseball hat, whilst the "crew" seem to treat him like their pet retard; never letting him join in their reindeer games. Then he busts out a showstopping solo routine in the final act which has infinitely more charisma, character, invention and impact than the subsequent "climactic" performance by the principle cast.
I never thought I would find a film that made me yearn for "Step Up 2: The Streets", but this one did. I suddenly realised the roaming creativity at work in the dance sequences in that film: Improvised percussion, undercover dancers and scary masks in a guerilla dance-attack on a subway! Barnstorming dance-off in a rain-soaked alleyway! Channing Tatum taking off his jacket using only some scaffolding!
"StreetDance"'s answer to that is a bunch of uninspired routines in rehearsal rooms, nightclubs and on a stage. This lot actually run for shelter when it starts raining, like a bunch of bloody cricketers. That's not fucking street. In fact; the grand finale negates all pretence of "street" dance, as the "crew" embrace the theatricality of ballet with a king-size bed on stage and people running around with massive strips of silk or summat. You try that shit behind the youth club and you'll get your face slit up.
All of this perhaps begs the question: Why, in this day and age, is the first British film about a growing urban phenomenon, a paean to the rythm of the street, a PG certificate film starring a blonde-haired white girl? Seems to me that this film is to Street Dance as "Camp Rock" is to... well, Rock.
Oh. and as for the 3D element: Sometimes some stuff gets thrown at the camera. Some food. A hat. A little kid with an afro. It doesn't really make a difference.