Remember break dancing? That acrobatic, kinetically graceful art form that busted out of the streets in the 1970s? Do you miss the power moves, the freezes, the head spins that seemed to go on forever?
Where did it go? Global, according to "Planet B-Boy," a documentary about the spread of break dancing throughout the world and its almost spiritual importance to the "b-boys" (and they are mostly boys) who practice it. After a brief history of how breaking emerged with emceeing, DJ-ing and graffiti art as part of hip-hop culture, filmmaker Benson Lee takes viewers on a whirlwind tour of Japan, France, South Korea and Las Vegas, profiling break-dance crews preparing to compete at the 2005 Battle of the Year, an international break-dance competition in Germany.
Lee does a good job of raising the stakes along the way, so by the time we see the crews take the stage at the battle (think the Sharks and the Jets on Red Bull), viewers are intimately familiar with their personal stories, from the Japanese and Korean crew members grappling with similar issues of filial piety to the white French kid who is the mascot of his multicultural team.
For all the energy and personality of its subjects, "Planet B-Boy" tends to drag, especially toward the competition finals. But Lee makes a spirited and persuasive case for break dancing, not only as an art form of strength, beauty, discipline and instinct, but as a means of transcending caste and culture.
-- Ann Hornaday (March 28, 2008)
Contains profanity. In French, German, Japanese, Korean and English with subtitles.