[Screen It]

(2004) (Omari Grandberry, Marques Houston) (PG-13)

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Drama: Two young men must deal with their differences while competing for fame and fortune in group dance contests.
David (OMARI GRANDBERRY) and Elgin (MARQUES HOUSTON) are best friends who lead a small group of people in various street dance contests overseen by local businessman Mr. Rad (STEVE HARVEY). Their crew is the best on the street and thus they feel they can easily take on a challenge by Wade (CHRISTOPHER JONES) and his dance team where the winners will take home $5,000.

Yet, when one of their own switches sides and gives Wade all of their dance moves, David and Elgin suddenly find themselves the losers. To make matters worse, things have become tense between the two.

For starters, Elgin isn't pleased that his sister, Liyah (JENNIFER FREEMAN), likes David and vice-versa. Then there's the fact that David wasn't there to stop some thugs from beating up Elgin while he was delivering some valuable "goods" for local crime boss, Emerald (MICHAEL "BEAR" TALIFERRO).

Liyah's friend, Beautiful (MEAGAN GOOD), and various dance team members including Rico (JARRELL HOUSTON), Rashaan (DREUX FREDERIC) and Vick (DeMARIO THORNTON) are in disbelief over the sudden rift in the group. From that point on, the two former friends must decide whether to put their differences aside so that they can compete in a lucrative competition and steal the street dancing crown back from Wade and his crew.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
If there's one thing you have to give to music videos and subsequent concert performances, it's that they've given a whole slew of previously unemployed background dancers a new venue in which to strut, shimmy and shake their stuff.

Such performers have always been in demand in certain Broadway musicals, and for a while, they got a lot of work when Hollywood decided to make film adaptations of such work and/or sported TV variety shows.

Yet, until the movie musical recently had a revival, there simply was a long lull when background dancers - especially those who move in unison - seemed to have gone the way of the dodo.

Then hip-hop and rap artists made their way onto MTV and the dancers made a comeback, although not exactly with the same sort of show stopping status and certainly not the same sort or amount of attire.

The latest dance movie, "You Got Served," draws its inspiration from those background dancers, although it's not a story about them per se. Instead, it's about various dance "crews" who get together in front of a voting audience and do their thing - sometimes in unison, sometimes not - in hopes of winning some moola and, more importantly, street creed.

In the spirit of "Bring it On," "Drumline," "8 Mile" and a slew of other such movies where performance contests are key, the film's most prominent feature is all of that dancing.

Fun, vibrant and highly enjoyable, such moments - and there are plenty of them - are the antithesis of the dull, clichéd, and poorly conceived and executed drama that surrounds and supposedly holds up that material.

You'll be amazed by how entertaining the individual and collective dance sequences are and how bad the rest of the film is. If only there were more of the former and far less of the latter. In fact, a documentary about such street contests would have been a better idea than what's offered here.

Director Christopher B. Stokes ("House Party 4"), who works from his own script, helms a flashy looking production that unfortunately and unwisely trots out a lackadaisical collection of labored elements, clichés, and manipulative and opportunistic developments.

Rather than having the climatic dance battle being a goal from the get-go, the filmmaker drops it in - in pure deus ex machine style - just when it's needed to spur on the characters.

It's the same with an off-screen death of a supporting character, the sudden removal of the film's villain and more. Such developments completely come out of the blue and simply prove that we're not watching the work of a subtle filmmaker.

His idea of dramatic conflict is having the viewer question whether the two main characters - who've had a falling out over some other contrived bits of material - will put their differences aside to join forces and get their dancing revenge on those who "dissed" them.

It doesn't help that the acting and delivery of some truly awful dialogue is often mediocre to stiff at best. While Omari Grandberry (a member of the hip-hop group B2K) and Marques Houston (part of the R&B group IMX) may appeal to the target audience, they're far more - make that only - notable for their dance moves rather than their acting.

Jennifer Freeman (making her feature debut) plays the obligatory girl on the side, while Christopher Jones ("O," "Forrest Gump") is the barely personified competitive enemy. Michael "Bear" Taliferro ("Bad Boys," "Half Past Dead") embodies the one-dimensional villain and Steve Harvey ("The Fighting Temptations," "Love Don't Cost a Thing") plays the unofficial referee-cum-advice dispenser who oversees the dance-offs.

In a better movie, all of their characters along with the leads and plot would have been better constructed and far more interesting. Alas, that's not the case.

Your best bet is to wait until the film hits the video shelves when you'll be able to fast forward through the dramatic flotsam and watch - and probably re-watch - the fabulous dance moments.

While none of that's likely to confuse anyone with the prior and far more fabulous work of the likes of Misters Astaire or Kelly, it's still rather fun and certainly entertaining to watch. It's too bad the same can't be said about the rest of the film. "You Got Served" rates as just a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed January 28, 2004 / Posted January 30, 2004

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