For crass inconsistency, you can't beat the Wayans family. Sure, they gave us TV's In Living Color, and back when big brother Keenan Ivory was behind the lens, there was I'm Gonna Get You Sucka and Scary Movies 1 and 2. Of course, since then, they up-chucked the horrific White Chicks, and the equally repugnant Little Man on unsuspecting audiences. Now they are back doing what (they think) they do best -- making fun of current cultural trends. In this case however, their parody of the Dance Flick film is, believe it or not, right on the money.
When her mother dies unexpectedly, Meghan White (Shoshana Bush) leaves the suburbs and heads for the big city. There she attends Musical High School and quickly befriends brash unwed mother Charity (Essence Atkins), the chubby Tracey Transfat (Chelsea Makela), and the standard good boy mixed up with a bad crowd, Thomas Uncless (Damon Wayans Jr.). At first, she could care less for her hip-hop loving classmates. But soon, she is turned around by the beat of the music and the attentions of Tom.
Meghan is concerned for the talented young man. Seems he is mixed up with thug pretender A-Con (Affion Crocket) and shady mobster Sugar Bear (David Alan Grier). Even worse, his crew was just "served" at the last street battle. If he wants to retain his rep, he'll have to get a new group together and they'll have to literally dance for their lives.
Let's get the basics out of the way right up front -- Dance Flick is a very funny, very entertaining film. Is it perfect? No way. Does it live up to the reputation of classic comedy spoofs like Airplane! and The Naked Gun? Well... yes. In fact, it's safe to say that in the present lampoon paradigm that gives enough rope to horrendous hacks Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer and the Disaster/Epic/Date Movies to ruin the genre, younger Wayans member Damien does the family more than proud. Clearly a student of the Step Up and Stomp the Yard school of fleet-footed cliché, the entire movie feels like one extended stand-up riff -- one that actually succeeds more times than it fails.
Credit has to go to the script, which sees the clan dropping much of the usual, pointless toilet humor (except for one marvelous exception) to go with more clever pop culture references. We see pointed takes of everything -- Twilight, High School Musical, Fame, Flashdance -- and then to top things off, we get dance battles where every move mutates into an over-the-top (and often very satisfying) sight gag. The interaction between the characters is formulaic and flat, but then one can easily look at the cinematic type being parodied and infer a kind a meta-irony.
Yet this is also a movie that's not afraid to go for the easy, obvious, and absolutely hilarious laugh. Amy Sedaris has a small role as a dance instructor with a descriptive name that will have you rolling in the aisles. She wholly steals the film from everyone else. Similarly, Grier, almost unrecognizable in an excellent fat suit, plays Sugar Bear and gets one of the film's best musical moments (yes, for some reason, the actors occasionally break out into song).
The casting all around is excellent, from Damon Jr. to Ms. Bush, with a special mention going to Affion Crockett as A-Con. He is so affable as the wannabe thug that when he breaks out the skates for a little roller boogie action, you can't help but smile. If you've been burned by the Wayans family before, if you have nightmares just thinking about their previous lack of regular rib tickling, Dance Flick may be the corrective you require.
Bust a move, maybe a gut.