Seriously, it is nuts the way these kids dance. Power, grace, fluidity, energy, innovation—yet all delivered with the deliberateness of the Joffrey by a cast of astounding young actors too amazingly engaging for so many reasons that one is hard-pressed to find the proper words to describe their utterly magnetic attraction (perhaps those are the words). And the cinematography (or more likely videography) by Andre Piennaar is so richly rendered and meticulously composed, not only in the numerous dance sequences, as to give the impression that the stylized images (mostly of the more downtrodden environs of Toronto) have been relived from the screen.
That said, there is dialogue—including an oddly conceived opening voiceover that cheats on the notion of not writing internal thoughts into screenplays—so didactic, rote and otherwise badly written (however well-delivered) that it will make you wish you were in a Sylvester Stallone movie (of which one is currently available) or dead—same difference.
The narrative is standard for this kind of film: Upon the death of her sister on the streets, a young girl (Juilliard-trained actress/dancer Rutina Wesley) is forced to leave the private school she crawled out of the poor-ish Jamaican enclave of Toronto to attend. The events have strained all of her relationships, and her return to the old ’hood after moving uptown leaves her mostly an outsider.
There are two chances for her: Pass a difficult test to gain a scholarship that will send her back uptown or hook up with one of the male step-dancing troupes and win an upcoming dance competition and the $50,000 prize. These notions are not only silly, they are positively debilitating, much like those old NAACP "A mind is a terrible thing to waste" PSAs that suggested that only juxtaposition to ready cash can salvage a burgeoning intellect. Whatever with that foolishness—one only hopes that the youthful audience these films are directed to either instinctively know better or at least experience a wider range of movies on the subject of edification, whatever the circumstances.
In addition to Wesley, Tre Armstrong (who is female) as her former-friend-turned-nemeses must be noted, as well as Dwain Murphy as Bishop, the bad-boy dancer (which is funny if you think about it), both of whom are captivating, along with just about all of the young Canadian actors that compose the rest of the cast.
But mostly, damn, those kids can dance.
Distributor: Paramount Vantage
Cast: Rutina Wesley, Tre Armstrong, Dwain Murphy, Rogue Johnston, Brennan
Director: Ian Iqbal Rashid
Screenwriter: Annmarie Morais
Producers: Jennifer Kawaja, Julia Sereny and Brent Barclay
Rating: PG-13 for some drug content, suggestive material and language
Running time: 98 min.
Release date: January 25, 2008