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You Got Served  (2004)

 

Starring: Marques Houston, Meagan Good, Omari Grandberry
Director:
Chris Stokes

Rating: PG-13

Studio: Screen Gems

Release Date: 01.30.04

Review Posted: 01.30.04

Spoilers: Minor

 

By Sara M. Fetters

 

Electric Dancing Ill-"Served" by Insipid Script

 

Dancers are incredible. They twist and turn and contort their bodies into amazing positions of intimate discovery, doing things so unbelievable your eyes almost pop out of your head. Yet, they – the best of them, at least – do these things with such an effortless grace, an almost benign obviousness, it’s easy to take their athleticism and physical perfection for granted. Watch Robert Altman’s sublime treatise on ballet “The Company” and you’ll know what I mean.

 

Speaking of that film, there are times when acrobatic fluid physicality is more than enough to carry a motion picture, that one a glorious case in point. If only the same could be said about Christopher B. Stokes’ (“House Party 4”) latest opus, the urban dance-fest “You Got Served.” Sure, the movement here is electric, sometimes bordering on the astounding, the movie boasting a final five minutes that defies equal parts gravity and expectations. But it’s not enough, the only thing being served here an anemic screenplay and juvenile amateurish acting the likes of which wouldn’t pass muster in even the most run-down dinner theater.

 

Billed as a fable for the hip-hop age, “You Got Served” is the story of best friends Elgin (Marques Houston of the group IMx), David (Omari “Omarion” Grandberry of the group B2K) and their crew of urban dancers. They compete in underground competitions pitting crew against crew in electrifying dance-offs, the winner decided by an enthusiastic crowd eagerly wanting to support the very best and most original team of dancers.

 

Elgin, David and their crew are the best, no other team able to boast their talent, athleticism and originality. No one, that is, until a rival crew financed and fronted by a rich suburbanite manages to lure away one of the group’s best members and steals many of their signature moves. With $5,000 on the line, Elgin and David are trumped and their crew is sent home flat broke with their tails stuck squarely between their legs.

 

Things go from bad to worse when David starts romancing his friend’s sexy sister Liyah (Jennifer Freeman). While the two are out on a date sharing a milkshake, tragedy befalls Elgin and he’s savagely beaten, the young man ending up stuck in the hospital with his knee strapped in a brace. Blaming David for his injuries – his friend was supposed to be looking out for him at the time of the attack – their friendship is fractured seemingly beyond repairs.

 

Not a good time for conflict and heartache to arise, for a local competition nicknamed The Big Bounce is offering $50,000 and a chance to be in Lil’ Kim’s latest video to the best urban dancing crew the city has to offer. Not only would that money go along way to helping each man achieve some of their dreams, but the competition also would give the duo the chance to show up the crew that humiliated them on their own turf just weeks earlier. But with the rift between them growing, can these two repair their difference before the final and lead their crew to victory?

 

I really hope you don’t need me to spell out the answer, for “You Got Served” follows every sports film cliché in the book. It even includes a condescendingly compassionate grandmother and an unfortunate and shocking death, each integral to making sure the heroes drop the macho facades and restore the bonds of brotherhood. Quite frankly, this is one of the worst written pictures I’ve seen in ages, huge portions of “Bring It On,” “Rocky” and even “Breakin’” lifted seemingly verbatim. The characters offer no surprises; much of their plight brought on purely by script contrivance than on any reality-based relevance.

 

Stokes throws it all in; drive by shootings, pick-up basketball games, incoherent street lingo, young girls with more cleavage and lip gloss than a porn star; yet none of it sticks or comes off as genuine. At just over ninety-minutes, there isn’t a chance for any of these plot histrionics to connect. Istead it just ends up looking like a shooting gallery, the writer/director throwing darts at a dartboard praying just one of them hits the mark.

 

The acting certainly doesn’t. While Steve Harvey has a nice time playing the mysteriously connected Mr. Rad, no one else here makes even a remote impression. The closest to doing so is Grandberry. He’s got a bubbly charm and cheeky grin that’s slickly appealing. Unfortunately, his character is such a card board cutout of fly guy coolness that the kid’s charm doesn’t get enough of a chance to shine through. That’s a shame, because out of everyone in the cast he was the one I warmed to.

 

Houston’s problems also spring more from the script letting him down than from anything else. After he takes his beating, Elgin becomes such a thoroughly unappealing presence even the most talented of actors would have trouble making anything out of him. It doesn’t help that the actor wears a Droopy Dog-like expression on his face for a good half the film, making him almost as depressing a presence as that canine probably would be in real life. That’s still a better imprint than the one made by the singularly untalented Freeman. Lovely to look at and blessed with a smile that could make angels sing, the actress unfortunately can’t say a line to save her life. It’s like watching an eighth grade drama student in a room full of professionals, the young girl so wretched she makes Madonna look like an Oscar-winner.

 

As bad as all of this is – and it’s really bad to be sure – there is one thing Stokes gets right, and that’s the dancing. This movie is eye-popping; the many featured crews displaying gymnastically-inspired pyrotechnics I can’t begin to explain. Dancers twist, twirl, flip, leap, hop, bop, plop, groove, weave and flat out fly across the screen. There is uncanny rhythmic teamwork followed by solo tour-de-forces that blow the mind. That final five minutes I mentioned earlier is truly something else, so good I was literally on the edge of my seat cheering for more.

 

It’s a real shame then that the rest of “You Got Served” is so insipid. As I left the theater, I couldn’t help but think that there is a great documentary just dying to be made out of the urban dancing events depicted here. I’d pay to see that in a heartbeat whereas there isn’t enough money in the world to get me in a theater to see this again, brilliant final five or no.

 

Film Rating: ê1/2  (out of 4)

 

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