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Movie Review: The Wayans Brothers Spoof ‘Dance Flick'

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A parody of dance movies from the Wayans family. Video by MTV Films

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By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 22, 2009

A new-classic barometer for a film genre's clichedness is whether the Wayans brothers have made a spoof of it. That's how we ended up with "Scary Movie" (I, II, III and IV), and that's how we ended up with Wayans wannabes "Date Movie," "Epic Movie" and "Disaster Movie," and that's how we end up, today, with the Wayanses' "Dance Flick," which is different from the other films because it ends in "Flick," not "Movie."

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In the genre being lampooned here, for those without TBS, a white girl's love for an ethnic or poor guy helps her score a scholarship to Juilliard, and helps him become a caricature. Needless to say, the concept has been wearing a big bull's-eye for a while now.

"Dance Flick's" ingenue is Megan, played by Shoshana Bush, a subscriber to Stuck Up Diva magazine who "used to dance -- in the suburbs" until her mom's freak death caused her to hang up the toe shoes and move into her dad's urban rathole.

Newly enrolled in Musical High, Megan meets krumping Thomas (Damon Wayans Jr.) and his sassy sister Charity. Can they help Megan get her groove back? Nah -- that would be a whole other spoof in 30 years ("Perimenopausal Movie!"). What they can do is maneuver her through a sequence of loosely joined sketches based on "Save the Last Dance," "Save the Last Dance 2: Stepping Up," "Step Up," "Step Up 2: The Streets" and other random filler movies that have nothing to do with dance whatsoever, like "Ray" and "Twilight."

There are two dance-offs, multiple fat jokes and one sight gag using eye boogers, a heretofore ignored bodily fluid. These are the highlights.

In a perfect cineworld, "Dance Flick," helmed by Damien Wayans, would slyly subvert its lampooned targets. It would find humor in exploiting, and then dashing, audience expectations. This is what happened in "Airplane," and in at least the first of the "Naked Gun" movies.

But that's not what the Wayans spoofs of the past decade, or any of the knock-offs, have ever been about. These parodies are less into satirizing other films and more into just mashing them together -- either directly referencing the funniest parts or adding poop to them. Sometimes, this has worked really well. The original "Scary Movie" pulled material from everything from "Scream" to "The Matrix" to "The Blair Witch Project" -- movies differing enough in content and style that "Scary Movie" managed to be fresh even in its familiarity, helped along by the vacuous comedic genius of Anna Faris.

That freshness is absent in "Dance Flick" -- but that might be less the fault of the Wayans brothers than the source material they had to draw from. Dance movies are not wildly different in content and style. They are all about urban vs. suburban, grit vs. polish, bulimic vs. only slightly bulimic. The plot(s?) are such that if you accidentally sat on the remote in the middle of watching "Step Up," you probably wouldn't notice when you caught the end of "Stomp the Yard" instead. The films already spoof themselves.

This means that "Dance Flick" must essentially be a parody of a parody, a clone of a clone of a clone. The jokes here aren't just low-hanging fruit, they are fruit lazily taken out of the moldy pile, like when Charity's baby-daddy gives alcohol to their son or when a leotard-wearing male character breaks into a song with the lyrics, "Gay! I will love men forever! I will always love guys!" To be fair: Wednesday's advance audience was howling during this song.

Bush is no Anna Faris, but she does what she can for a part that mostly requires her to do nothing (not even dance!). Wayans Jr. is a genuinely gifted physical comedian, regularly salvaging laughs from groans -- just wait for the roller-skating scene.

Dumb references aside, the most terrifying possibility for "Dance Flick" is that you won't be able to tell whether the movie is making them or whether you've just wandered into "Step Up 3: Stepping Up to the Next Step."

As the theater emptied after the advance screening, one under-informed audience member turned to his date and remarked, "That was kind of like that other dance movie we saw."

"Yeah," she replied, looking concerned. "That's because this was a parody of dance movies."

"Oh," he said.

Exactly.

Dance Flick (83 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, and language.


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