So I went and saw Dance Flick. I swore I’d never see another Wayans brothers movie again, but it was free, and I’ll be honest, this one looked better. And I think that would be the best way to describe the movie. Better. There were some parts that were funny, to be sure, but they were sparse. I won’t pretend I care enough not to give away spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie and plan on being “surprised,” don’t keep reading. The rest of y’all click the link to read the rest.
I’ll start off my rant by talking about a couple parts I thought were well done, classic even.
I was given hope early in the movie by the first scene. This is the default dance-off scene one would expect from a dance flick, and I think they actually did a good job with that. The opposing team had “amazing” moves that caused them to drill into the ground and fly like a UFO out the window. That bit was quick and satisfying. After all the dancing is done, there is apparently a tie, and one amazing move will cinch it. So the main character’s teammate pulls out one where he slides on his head, but the bad team puts oil on the floor, causing a scene where the head-stander slides out the door, down stairs, and has to stop at an intersection to wait for opposing traffic of head-standers, before sliding off a cliff. I have to say that that bit is in the style of classic parody/farce movies such as Airplane or Hot Shots. In fact it is vaguely reminiscent of the Hot Shots scene where Walleye’s parachute pulls him up random stairs and eventually gets stuck in an ambulance.
At the end of the movie, they have the obligatory prom scene. The scene seems tacked on to the movie, but since they are teens, it is somewhat expected. They of course have to do their Twilight bit here, and it almost works. At the part where she hops on his back and he begins to slide, it turns out he’s wearing heelies, which I was amused by. Unfortunately it devolves and I’ll explain that later.
I also want to add that the running gag with the baby is handled well. I thought the scene where the father came to see his son was classic. You have the knock at the door, and then the baby-daddy standing there. The music is appropriately sweet and swelling. He says, “I’m here to pick up my son.” Then as the music hits its peak, he picks up the baby, then immediately sits him back down and says he’ll be back next week to pick him up again. Well played and original.
Now on to the frustrating bits. As I said before, the best way to describe this movie is “better.” They come so close to getting the formula right in this one, but the film is obviously the result of a large mind-meld with little direction and has ended up being confusing and schizophrenic.
My biggest pet peeve about this film is its total and utter lack of follow through. They go for the joke, but then realize they’ve painted themselves into a corner. When they do that they tend to etch-a-sketch it and shake it all away. For example: There is a scene where the main girl (Megan) is given a make-over by her newly-acquired black friend (Charity). When they finish, Megan comes out all tarted up and in black face, speaking all ghetto. Then in the next scene she is back in her regular clothes as if the previous scene NEVER HAPPENED!
In another scene the main guy (Thomas) is giving the generic “we can rise above the ghetto” speech, which is a good thing. Then his friend says he never can because he has guns for hands. WHAT?! Now, that could have worked, but this scene is the ONLY TIME he has gun hands. For the rest of the movie he has regular hands. This “cheap joke” was really a large piece of plot motivation. Because of the lack of follow through, one of Thomas’ biggest motivators disappears in a puff of smoke. Things like this were happening all throughout the film. Is it too much to ask that the punchlines be motivated? If you must go for the cheap laugh, write the story around it, don’t ignore it.
Another issue that they faced in this movie is character development. The Wayans brothers have a bad habit of transplanting characters from other movies directly into their own with very little modification. Thankfully they shied away from that in this one. Unfortunately many of the secondary characters they introduced were extremely two-dimensional, some existing purely as a tie to a movie or a joke. For example: They had an obviously fey basketball character who’s coach father wants him to man up. This ended up being a wave to High School Musical and a long walk to a gay-themed Fame song parody. So what happens to the character after that? NOTHING! You don’t get any closure on his problem. If you introduce a character with conflict, you have to follow through, even if its a five second scene with his father saying he knows, he’s gay too, ANYTHING.
The closest they came to transplanting a character verbatim was when a girls comes into class with big hair and introduces herself as Tracy. I think they did the worst job with her in that she has hardly any lines, and nothing really reminiscent of Hairspray at all. It felt almost like “look, we saw that movie too!” Weirdly this is one time they did exhibit follow through, in that she is often in the classes and around school and is even part of the final ragtag group that helps Thomas in the end. As part of that group, they could easily have used her as kind of a cool joke/avant-garde thing. When it was her turn to dance, they could have had her go out, and start to mash potato, and get laughed at. THEN she could have turned the tide by doing some kind of 50’s dance/Modern Hip-hop fusion. But i guess they spent so much money on the CGI baby they didn’t have enough for the choreographer.
Lastly, they need to learn to pull their punches. They are the Lenny of farce, crushing the little baby rabbits that are their jokes.
There is a scene where the coach of the basketball team is talking to the team members. Everyone but the main character has some sort of name that is a euphemism for penis. The coach then says something to each player that is suggestive, using their name. WE GET IT! You could have just panned past their backs and the name joke was done, but instead they dragged it out over 5 minutes, with no real purpose or payoff.
In the last scene, the prom one with the Twilight reference. They could have ended that with the heelies bit, then gone on to the rest of the scene, but instead they begin to almost word for word quote Twilight. Then Thomas walks into the light and sparkles (as well as having his hair change to match Edward’s). He and Megan have a back and forth that bitches about sparkling not being scary and then, that’s right, ETCH-A-SKETCH! Now he’s back to normal and they are dancing.
I think it’s obvious that the Wayans brothers have realized that the same format isn’t working anymore and have started watching classic farce movies. They haven’t figured out everything that makes them funny yet, but it’s getting closer. If I was grading the script of this movie, I would write “B- Shows Improvement. Keep Trying.” I say keep trying because, unfortuanately, they are the only ones even trying to keep this movie genre alive. You can do it, Wayans. Go rent Airplane again, but avoid the third Naked Gun movie.