Friday, May 29, 2009

Dance Flick (2009)

What is there to say about Dance Flick? It’s yet another saturation-style spoof movie in the long line of films that started all the way back in 1980 with the Zucker/Abrams/Zucker production Airplane! (or maybe in 1974 with Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein) and hasn’t stopped since. I’m totally tired of this genre; it hasn’t been funny in years, painfully unfunny and awkwardly constructed at best, and let's not talk about at worst. The genre reached its nadir last year with four – count ‘em – releases: Meet the Spartans and Disaster Movie from Friedberg and Seltzer (of Date Movie and Epic Movie) and Superhero Movie and An American Carol from Zucker. So here we go again with Dance Flick, a Wayans variety spoof movie, they of Scary Movie and Don’t Be a Menace – the varied and interconnected world of spoof movies can be overwhelming, can’t it? This time around, the movie uses the structure of Save the Last Dance and hangs upon it digs at Step Up, Hairspray, High School Musical, Fame, Dreamgirls, and other contemporary all-I-want-to-do-is-dance kind of films.

As I walked into the theater, I slunk down in my seat, ready for the awfulness which was about to greet me. Then a funny thing happened. I found myself laughing; not too often at first, but then I would laugh a little louder and smile a little wider. I wasn’t exactly enjoying myself, but it wasn’t a full-time cringe, which is, I suppose, a step up from the genre’s recent track record. I laughed because this wasn’t just mindless recycling of recent cultural touchstones. There is some genuine sociological drive behind some of the humor, even if the point it makes is unoriginal. Hey, there's such a thing as deadbeat dads and neglectful mothers. Who knew?

But this is not, I repeat not, a recommendation. Too often, a genuinely funny moment is followed immediately by a sequence cringe-worthy in tastelessness or awkward in its lack of humor. I could talk about performances or specific bits but, who cares? This isn’t a movie with great performances, and all involved should know it. This also isn’t a movie that has comedic moments that are easily explained. You wouldn’t understand if I told you that the funniest line in the movie comes when a character looks at the camera and deadpans “For those of you watching on TV, I am wearing a yellow suit.” It's all about context, or lack thereof. Or maybe it's all about the tone in which it is said. Or maybe I was tired.

I am at a loss, dear reader. I am confronted with a movie that I know in my mind and heart is a movie that is not well-made, and yet I did laugh, and at a ratio of about 3 jokes to every 1 laugh, which isn’t bad for a type of comedy that sends jokes flying at the audience at a fairly rapid rate. So what do I tell you? In the end, all I can think to say is this: if you like this kind of thing and are willing to cringe through the dry spots to get to the really funny stuff, go for it. Looking back at what I just wrote, I realize that this review is the written equivalent of rambling for a spell and ending up just as unsure as at the beginning. This is just the kind of movie that’ll do that to you.

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