In a nutshell: “Street Dance” meets “The Nativity”
One line review: Stilted at times but great dance scenes and genuinely funny.
If you’ve been to see one of the major Hollywood kids films during the last couple if months (Wreck It Ralph, The Croods etc) then you’ve probably seen the trailer for this film. If you are anything like me, the prospect of a British film aimed at children brings mixed feelings. It’s always a welcome change from the usual offerings from Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks etc. but there is always the risk of being disappointed. Given this was a pretty quiet week for kids films at the cinema, and both our children were really keen, we decided to give it a go.
The film follows the story of Jaden (Akai Osei-Mansfield – Streetdance 2 & 3D), a brilliant dancer frustrated by his parents efforts to get him to focus on his education and Ethan (Theo Stevenson – Horrid Henry) a “fixer” whose wheeler-dealer activities have a tendency to get him in trouble. Faced with the impending closure of their local youth centre, Jaden tries to persuade Ethan to apply his “entrepreneurial” skills to organising a fundraising talent show. Meanwhile, non-dancer Ethan wants Jaden to help him put together a dance crew to impress a girl. Realising that there is some synergy between their respective projects the boys agree to work together. And so, begins the process of recruiting their crew and organising the show.
I must admit, I went into this film with relatively low expectations. I would run a mile from High School Musical or any of the recent batch of Streetdance films.Whilst this was meant to be a kids comedy I was thoroughly expecting to have already seen all the funny bits in the the trailer. The result? Well, I was pleasantly surprised.
Yes, this is a relatively low budget children’s film. Plus, the main contributors are all children which brings the usual problems of some slightly underdone acting which allows the film to plod in a few places. Furthermore, being a dance film, some of the cast are, quite clearly, dancers first and actors second. And yes, the plot has a few holes and things that don’t quite make sense. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help enjoying the film.
Firstly, whilst I’m no authority on matters dance related, the dance scenes, themselves, were fantastic. Plus, they were blended in to the plot in a way which didn’t make non-dance fanatics like me cringe in our seats. Akai, in particular, is quite clearly a brilliant dancer (who, incidentally can act as well!) and the film makes the most of his abilities.
But, beyond this, the film does just draw you in. Despite the it’s limitations, I found myself quite charmed by the misfits of characters that end up forming of Ethan’s crew and the relationships between them. Somehow, you find yourself relating to them and their wildly varying backgrounds, despite the fact that none of them were particularly like me.
Supported by a more than capable adult cast of Ashley Jensen (Extras, Nativity!) Hugh Dennis, and Mark Heap (Stardust, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory) who all managed to maintain the careful balance of putting in solid performances without taking the attention away from the kids. And watch out for the short but assured performance from John Barrowman. Dispute being brief it added an intriguing footnote to the film.
Having said all of that, I get the feeling that this is one of those films that will divide opinion and surprise people at the same time. For example, whilst I went in with low expectations I thought my wife would love it. Yet, she left disappointed saying, “it was up there with one of the worst films I’ve seen”. And she probably is an authority in matters dance related. Or maybe that is the problem, I don’t quite know.
Personally, I’d say it’s well worth going to see. Of course, being a U certificate with a child cast, it’s not going to have a level of grit and realism that will satisfy everyone. Furthermore, would I have picked this film had I not gone with 2 children? Probably not. Nevertheless, I didn’t feel that I’d sat through a film just for the entertainment needs of my kids. whilst they loved it, I certainly enjoyed it too.