Film Review: Make Your Move

Nothing new here, except for a lot of very hot Asians and a welcome return to sensible dance editing, putting this a notch above in the genre.

Just out of a New Orleans jail, former street con Donny (Derek Hough) heads to New York, where his black "brother from another mother" Nick (Wesley Jonathan) owns the hot dance club Static. The club is in fierce competition with Oto, owned by Kaz (Will Yun Lee), and backed by sleazoid Wall Streeter Michael (Jefferson Brown). Michael has the serious hots for Aya (BoA), Kaz's very fierce dancer of a sister, but so does Donny, who is gob-smacked when he sees her doing her stuff onstage. Aya and Donny seem star-crossed, especially on the dance floor, but first they must deal with the deadly enmity of their respective, rival bros.

There's nothing particularly new here in the now near-hoary tradition of hip-hop dance epics, save two items. One is the prominent and unexpected presence of so many Asian, namely Korean, performers in the cast, a testament to the co-producer, Seoul-based CJ Entertainment. The other, just as salutary, is the editing. Ever since MTV's 1980s takeover, dance on film has suffered irrevocably from that blasted chop-chop, tossed-salad editing which gave you flashes of movement and body parts timed to the rhythm of the music, while providing you with no real sense of the choreography. Although not a complete return to the impressive full-figure, long-take technique so masterfully utilized by the likes of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in their day, Make Your Move is a thoroughly welcome step back in the right direction, perhaps a nod to star Derek Hough’s “Dancing with the Stars” TV tenure, in which dances needed to be actually seen to be judged. What choreography there is here is not the most inspired—we've seen a lot of these ultra-strenuous boy-band moves before—but the charge one gets from all this youthful energy demonstrating what it can do is indeed inspiring.

The plot is completely shallow and endlessly derivative, but the performers manage somehow to pierce through the cliché-ridden morass and offer some charm. BoA's slightly uncertain English may render some of her lines askew, but she's lovely, an absolute twirling dervish in the spotlight, and her interracial romance with Hough, with its tension and comedy, has a verve-y freshness to it, which reminded me a bit of Marlon Brando and Miiko Taka way back when in 1957's Sayonara. (There's some flavor-adding cultural info as well, concerning BoA's Japanese upbringing as a Korean, and also her use of taeko drums in her dance.) Hough is definitely more dancer than actor—with a Boy Scout earnestness at odds with his character's edginess that is at times slightly risible—but there's no gainsaying his terpsichorean sizzle. The other actors fill their stereotypical roles with proficiency, with more than a few of them occasionally sliding into B-movie territory, but for any undemanding, party-loving devotee of this sort of thing, Make Your Move delivers a reliably good time.

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