‘Battle of the Year:’ Chris Brown’s new dance movie fights for attention

Chris Brown’s latest struggle may be getting people to sit through his new movie, Battle of the Year.

Though you probably haven’t heard of it, the film opens in theaters today, and stars the 24-year-old singer as a member of an ensemble b-boy squad, coached by Josh Holloway (yeah, the guy from Lost) and heading to Europe for a super dramatic world dance competition.

Based on director Benson Lee’s 2007 documentary Planet B-Boy, the fictionalized dance story sneaks onto movie screens with minimal marketing, no press from Brown (at least no crazy headlines), and only a handful of bad reviews to its name.

Nevertheless, if Team Breezy stands by their prince, the star could rally up enough troops to fill theaters with his first dance movie since debuting in Stomp the Yard six years ago.

“Chris Brown, of course, brings his charisma, but also he embodies the whole b-boy lifestyle, which is a lot different than a dancer or an artist,” Dave Scott, supervising choreographer for Battle of the Year, tells theGrio. “He’s bringing a lot of that aggressive charisma to the table.”

As long they stay on the dance floor, Brown’s moves will not likely disappoint, and Scott believes anyone who likes “sports” and “excitement” will find the movie amusing.

“It’s an incredible story,” he comments. “It’s a worldwide story.”

To the beat, y’all

Filmed in late 2011 and 2012, this 3D movie about the trials of breakdancing was made primarily in Los Angeles, with additional shooting at last year’s world breakdancing championships in Montpellier, France.

Having choreographed projects like You Got Served, Step Up 2, and So You Think You Can Dance, Scott previously worked with Brown and has played a role in the evolution of Hollywood’s dance scene.

He admits the talent pool hasn’t necessarily grown, but feels the interest and hype of the dance market remains vibrant, and the new film addresses realities behind the dreams.

Says Scott, it’s a break from the norm, and despite a rather limited marketing strategy, the film appeals universally.

“It’s being marketed like other dance films, but it’s also being pushed not only to the dance world, but to those people who would come see it for more than a dance movie,” he explains.

Team Breezy to the rescue

Truth be told, hip-hop does carry weight internationally, with Brown a heavy hitter in the game (get it?).

Reviews for Battle of the Year so far are negative, however the movie will likely benefit more from tween infatuation than Oscar solicitors.

The Los Angeles Times called it “formulaic,” “cliché-ridden,” and “predictable,” and USA Today described it as “a gross misstep” that “makes Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo look like a Fellini film.”

At least the New York Post could see the bright side.

“I’ll admit my favorite part of this movie was watching a young man yell, ‘Why are you such an a**hole?’ at Chris Brown,” writes critic Sara Stewart. “But there are also a handful of moments to enjoy if you’re a break dance fan — or a Brown fan, as many in my audience seemed to be.”

Don’t doubt the power of Team Breezy. They’re already working Twitter to get fans into theaters.

On the day of release, fan @ChrisBrownRCA tweets, “I Have An Idea #TeamBREEZY, Tonight, Before Watching #BOTY, Take A Picture Of You In Front On The Poster Or Take A Picture Of Your Tickets!”

But QueenK1987 was one step ahead, replying, “@ChrisBrownRCA I saw it yesterday.”


Brown offered one, probably contractual, tweet promoting the movie a week ago, but not much else.

Perhaps he forgot about it.

Did Julia Stiles really get the last dance?

Considering the impact of reality competition shows, dance still remains a bankable genre of entertainment with television now surpassing film.

What used to be Save the Last Dance, Center Stage, and Stomp the Yard has become a mounting pile of Step Up sequels.

“Dance movies have failed to evolve thematically, or evolve the basis of the plots,” observes Lashaun Price, a Los Angeles-based choreographer and international dancer. “I really appreciate a movie like Black Swan. That movie took the idea of dance and dance structure, and even though it wasn’t dance-based, the idea of dance and the respect of dance was at the forefront of the movie. It wasn’t that average boy meets girl, boy is troubled, girl is troubled, they help each other out, there’s a dance scene in which they have to fight it out for an award or for respect, they balance the relationship, cue credits.”

Sticking to convention creates boredom, says Price, but simultaneously, capitalizes on routine.

Using a formula could be an advantage for this latest edition.

“When I saw the Battle of the Year promo, it literally looked like a remix of You Got Served,” Price adds. “At the same token, it could do really well because maybe they’re sticking to the model of, ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ Or also maybe they’re banking on Chris Brown’s marketability to carry the movie in its entirely.”