Movie Review by Samuel Taradash
Starring: Shoshana Bush, Damon Wayans Jr, Essence Atkins, Affion Crockett
Director: Damien Dante Wayans
A parody is a difficult thing to do well, especially when the source material is less than fresh. The spate of dance films from the early 2000s didn’t bring many new ideas to the screen. At best, some of them managed to draw mainstream attention to different dance styles. At worst, well, there doesn’t seem to be an upper limit to how many cliches can be in a movie before it accidentally slips into farce territory. So to make a film intentionally ridiculous in those ways but still be genuinely funny is a tough target to hit.
Assuming you’ve seen SAVE THE LAST DANCE, STEP UP, FAME, BRING IT ON, or even WEST SIDE STORY, you can guess the story of DANCE FLICK, a surprisingly watchable effort from the makers of the original SCARY MOVIE and I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA. While the script zings the most obvious weaknesses of recent dance films, it also avoids relying too heavily on references to specific celebrities or short-lived blips in cultural awareness. Yes, there are digs at Mel Gibson’s drinking, Halle Berry’s driving and Steve Harvey’s suits, but there are also send ups of overblown Broadway musicals, urban slang, deadbeat dads and movie stereotypes of black and urban characters.
This is where DANCE FLICK shows its strengths. Rather than lambasting a single film or genre, ideas from all over are allowed to run wild, with layers of gags competing for attention. Some scenes have a density of jokes that rival classic Mad Magazine pages, with gags wedged into the set decoration, the costumes and the props, in addition to the wordplay and the physical humor. Sometimes it’s a bit much to take in, but then no one chooses a spoof for subtlety.
With two generations of adult Wayans writing, directing, scoring, producing and acting in this movie, it’s hard to apportion credit or blame. But director Damien Dante Wayans keeps things moving at a brisk clip, and the writing (courtesy of Damien, Shawn, Marlon, Craig and Keenen Ivory Wayans), doesn’t drift too much. Shoshana Bush is an amiable comic foil, and Damon Wayans Jr seems to have inherited his father’s sense of delivery and timing, along with prominent ears and ability to play a humorous dork. The rest of the cast does their jobs well, including a pair of prosthetic-enhanced scenes from David Alan Grier and Amy Sedaris, and the dance choreography is both tight, well-timed and generally pretty funny.
DANCE FLICK might not be as good as SCARY MOVIE, or as well executed as the 1988’s I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA, but it’s well above the more recent genre parodies from the Freidburg and Seltzer team, such as SUPERHERO, EPIC or DATE MOVIE. Fans of AIRPLANE! or THE NAKED GUN will sense something familiar and welcome in this latest send-up from the ever-expanding Wayans comedy dynasty.