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Who doesn’t love a high-voltage dance-off? The derivative yet irresistibly exuberant sequel to the 2010 U.K. box-office dance smash StreetDance 3D remixes that film’s winning formula of rival dance troupes with some spicy salsa rhythms and the addition of smoking-hot Madonna dancer Sofia Boutella.
Britain’s original take on the American Step Up franchise (which delivers its fourth film, Step Up: Revolution, this summer) lit up the box office there at a time when 3D was fresh and hip-hop dancing had hit the mainstream thanks to the success of a crew called Diversity, which beat out Susan Boyle to win Britain’s Got Talent. Two years on, even Boutella’s mesmerically whipping limbs and hair might not be diverting enough to lure a fickle teen audience into another go-round.
StreetDance 2’s surprisingly weak domestic opening March 30 might be offset by a stronger performance offshore, with directors Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini (StreetDance 3D) having expanded their purview to include a crew of real-life pan-continental freestylers and the beauty spots of Europe.
Dancers unite and adversity is predictably trounced as returning screenwriter Jane English serves up a heaping plate of cheesy leftovers, including another dance fusion (the first movie merged street dance and ballet) and a clichéd romance. The film only hits its stride when the bendy bunch of b-boys and -girls assembled by American street dancer Ash (Falk Hentschel) have the floor.
After being humiliated in London by the reigning street dance crew Invincible, Ash teams with fast-talking manager Eddie (George Sampson, returning from the original StreetDance) to gather together Europe’s premier freestylers and have a tilt at winning the ultimate tournament in Paris. They’ll need an edge, though, and Ash finds it in an underground salsa club owned by the benevolent but wary Manu (Tom Conti playing the token adult with a dreadful French accent.) Manu’s show-stopping niece Eva (Boutella) is convinced to sign on, and the crew works on marrying the passion of Latin rhythms with the bristling attitude of hip hop.
That’s about it, really, as the connect-the-dots script follows the inevitable line through to the final showdown, with detours for a pillow fight and a chili-fueled test of machismo for Ash.
Hentschel’s Ash is an unusually off-putting lead, morose when he’s not being cocky, and so it is left to Boutella’s fiery Eva to provide the spark. Boutella, a French hip-hop dancer who’s toured twice with Madonna and most recently performed in her Super Bowl halftime show, is up to the task, effortlessly mastering an entirely new dance form. The exceptionally talented supporting dancers get short shrift, blending into the background in largely nonspeaking roles.
The showcase dance sequences — Cuban choreographer Maykel Fonts is in charge of the Latin routines and the pops and locks come courtesy of Rich and Tone Talauega – are full of youthful exuberance and are often tinglingly sensual. Unobtrusive 3D enhances the action. A shame, then, that the grace of the choreography suffers from occasionally excessive chopping.
Production company: Vertigo Films
Cast: Falk Hentschel, George Sampson, Sofia Boutella, Tom Conti
Directors: Max Giwa, Dania Pasquini
Screenwriter: Jane English
Producers: Allan Niblo, James Richardson
Executive producers: Rupert Preston, Nick Love, Nigel Williams, Christine Langan, Al Munteanu
Co-producers: Henning Ferber, Marcus Welke and Mark Lombardo
Director of photography: Sam McCurdy
Production designer: Richard Bullock
?Costume designer: Andrew Cox
Music: Lloyd Perrin, Jordan Crisp
Editor: Tim Murrell
Sales: Protagonist Films, London
No MPAA rating, 84 minutes
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