It's a time-tested idea: the kinetic action of an urban dance-off movie, bolstered by the underdog narrative of a sports movie. The latest example, "Battle of the Year," might have been a winner if its creators hadn't made two fatal errors. One is a surfeit of inspirational pep-talks and put-me-in-coach cliches. The other is a dearth of dancing.
"Battle of the Year" is named after the real breakdancing competition that takes place annually in, of all places, France. The film's director, Benson Lee, documented that international event in his 2007 film, "Planet B-Boy," but for the fictional "Battle of the Year" he wants a familiar, Hollywood-ready story. Enter Jason Blake (Josh Holloway, "Lost"), a former basketball coach with a dead family and a drinking problem. His old schoolmate Dante (Laz Alonso), now a Diddyesque entertainment mogul, taps Blake to whip a crew of talented but egotistical breakdancers into shape.
"Battle of the Year" is too inept to make this tired premise sing. Structurally, it's a disaster, with characters who flicker in and out of the story almost at random. Chris Brown is energetic as the strutting Rooster, Josh Peck lightens the mood as assistant coach Franklyn, and the real breakdancers Do Knock and Rebel have natural charm. The movie also deserves credit for introducing a gay B-boy, Lil Adonis (Richard Maguire), who confronts homophobia within the crew. Mostly, though, the team members are interchangeable and unmemorable.
Where "Battle" truly stumbles is in its dancing sequences. There aren't enough of them, and most are abbreviated rehearsals. As a mix of two genres, "Battle of the Year" might have worked. After all, sports movies are never really about the sport. The problem is that dance-off movies are always -- always -- about the dancing.
PLOT A hard-luck basketball coach is tapped to lead a breakdancing crew to greatness.
CAST Josh Holloway, Chris Brown, Do Knock, Laz Alonso
BOTTOM LINE This teen-targeted mix of "Hoosiers" and "Bring It On" stumbles with too many heartfelt speeches and not nearly enough dancing.