`You Got Served' doesn't have a hand to stand on

January 30, 2004|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Is it that difficult for energy and intelligence to co-exist on-screen?

You Got Served has plenty of the former, and barely one scintilla of the latter. As a pop-culture study of street dancers, those gravity-defying human rubber bands whose gyrations fly in the face of both physics and biology, it's endlessly fascinating. But as a film, it's nothing, a series of dance sequences unimaginatively staged and listlessly directed, strung together with melodramatic cliches, leaden dialogue and trite plot devices.

Elgin and David (Marques Houston of the musical group IMX and Omari "Omarion" Grandberry of B2K) are longtime chums and leaders of Los Angeles' dominant crew of street dancers; in a fair competition, no one can beat them. Things unravel, however, after one of their members defects to a rival crew, then get worse when a misunderstanding drives a wedge between Elgin and David, leaving the former friends not talking to one another.

Things come to a head when a dance contest (called "The Big Bounce," coincidentally the name of another movie opening in theaters today) offers a $50,000 prize, and the only way the crew can win is for the friends to reconcile. Can they come to their senses in time?

You Got Served has problems on two levels. One is the story, which continuously trips over itself. David, for instance, has this big speech where he urges a young friend to join the crew and stay out of trouble - presenting the crew as a safe alternative to becoming a street thug. Yet David and Elgin earn their keep by delivering satchels of money for a local drug lord.

And the movie seems to exist in some sort of weird time warp; when Elgin gets beaten during a delivery and has the money stolen, everyone in the neighborhood knows the tyrannical drug lord is going to jump all over Elgin's case and demand his money back. Yet weeks seem to pass - enough time for Elgin to get out of the hospital and his broken leg to heal - before that happens.

But the real problem is the direction of Christopher B. Stokes, a music video veteran whose clunky style seems the antithesis of MTV (or at least good MTV). Save for the final square-off, the dance footage is resolutely uninspired; the camera rarely lingers on a dancer long enough to appreciate what he or she is doing. The astonishing brio and verve of street dancing deserves better than this.

You Got Served

Starring Marques Houston, Omari Grandberry

Directed by Christopher B. Stokes

Rated PG-13 (thematic elements, sexual references)

Released by Screen Gems

Time 93 minutes

Sun Score *1/2

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