Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Slick, callous executive type gets pulled over for DUI, gets stuck doing community service with a ragtag group of misfit kids, helps them win the big championship. Love, life lessons and fist-in-air victories ensue.
No, Disney isn’t rebooting the “Mighty Ducks” franchise — yet, anyway — but these familiar plot points get a thorough rehashing in “Battlefield America,” a skimpy bit of fluff about pre-teen dance crews throwing down in Long Beach back alleys long after their bedtimes.
For ad exec Sean Lewis (the thoroughly unconvincing Marques Houston, who also co-wrote with director Chris Stokes), the only way out of jail time is to work 120 hours of community service in a rec center where Sarah (Mekia Cox) seemingly oversees just one group of youngsters, a handful of boys trying to improve their moves so they can compete in Battlefield America, an annual competition where teams of prepubescents show off their street moves.
The first big problem in “Battlefield America” is that the titular throwdown is never really explained — it’s like if “Rocky” were about a boxer who was competing to be The Big Winner, but we were never told what he was winning or why it was important.
If the returning champions of Battlefield America had rolled up in limos, wearing matching track suits, we might get the idea that this event is a big deal, but as it is, all the teams seem to be competing for little more than bragging rights and one of those giant “Toddlers & Tiaras” trophies.
You can pretty much guess the beats here. Sean hates the kids, Sean flirts with Sarah, Sean grows to love the kids, Sarah grows to love Sean, Sean ditches the kids to go back to his old life that he then realizes is unfulfilling, ob la di, ob la dah. All of this to get us to the big finale, which is supposed to take place at L.A.’s enormous Staples Center (we get about 20 helicopter shots of the venue) but is obviously unfolding in a more roller-derby-sized venue.
So many random events take place, from Sean’s arbitrary workplace problems to the flaccid taunts from a rival coach (Christopher Jones, trying his best to channel the villains from “The Karate Kid”), that you may begin to long for the coherence and character development of the screenplays of Tyler Perry.
“Who cares?” I imagine some of you asking. “I’m not interested in plot or characters or acting or writing. I just want to see the kids dance.” Ah yes, that. The movie keeps telling us that these kids have crazy talent, but when it comes time to show it, the frenetic editing by Sherril Schlesinger and Harvey White makes it impossible to tell.
During the actual dance numbers, no shot seems to last for more than about three seconds, and the filmmakers love to give the camera an earthquake-shake whenever anyone’s feet make contact with the ground. With filmmaking like this, you could make two easy chairs and bowl of cottage cheese look like Cirque du Soleil.
If you have a desire to see pre-tweens sing and dance, check out the truly unhinged 2010 cult musical “Standing Ovation,” a paean to the “I want fame and I want it NOW” generation that’s never known life before “American Idol.” “Battlefield America” — why exactly is this kid-targeted movie rated PG-13? — can’t even muster enough lunacy to be so-bad-it’s-good, landing instead in so-dull-it’s-dull territory instead.