Planet B-Boy

"Very Good"

Planet B-Boy Review


Just as the film world is gearing up for yet another cinematic event wherein Jamie Kennedy tries to get laughs out of being a white guy... who likes rap! -- further cheapening the currency of a subculture that's been over-commercialized and taken advantage of practically since its inception -- comes a documentary that, by going abroad, goes a good distance toward restoring some actual credibility to domestic hip-hop style. Benson Lee's study of international break-dancing Planet B-Boy has all the hallmarks of an overly earnest production, with its over-the-top talking heads proclaiming the glory of true b-boy style (while giving the uninitiated zero specifics) but overcomes that shortcoming through sheer dint of exuberant passion. These are kids who really want to break-dance, and how long has it been since somebody could say that and mean it?

Wisely, Lee doesn't go into an examination of how hip-hop, DJ-ing, and break-dancing all came about in New York, particularly the Bronx, in the late 1970s and early '80s -- the topic has been well-covered elsewhere -- but paints the history of break-dancing in short strokes. A street phenomenon that exploded into the national consciousness after Flashdance featured it, it was quickly overexposed, riddled with ridicule, and left for dead as a cultural artifact explored only as a punchline on one of those snarky retro pop-culture shows on cable; no better than parachute pants or Vanilla Ice. Of no use to anybody, break-dancing found an unlikely home, as many orphaned American art forms do, in Europe: specifically, Germany. Blonde-haired aficionados were soon posing and doing head-spins all across the continent.

In a stranger-than-fiction development, while American hip-hop and mainstream culture moved steadily in a different direction, hardcore groups of dedicated break-dancers (or "b-boys" in their strictly old-school parlance) in Europe kept it alive, eventually expanding around the globe. Lee's film tracks this development with quick strokes, shifting into a quick look at how b-boys from different countries have specific styles (the French are known for their dance abilities, Japanese for their great choreography, while the Americans do best at individual "battles").

But Planet B-Boy is really more interested in cheerleading than in sociological study, and so it's for the best that the bulk of it follows a number of international b-boy teams as they gear up for the annual "Battle of the Year" showdown in, of all places, Braunschweig, Germany. With a breezy speed, Lee tracks the hopes and fears of teams from South Korea, Japan, France, and Las Vegas, as they strut on the stage in a flurried mix of choreographed and freestyle moves. As any good film that culminates in a dance competition must, it hypes the pounding music, cheering crowds, and mawkish family backstories to the extreme.

Along the way, though, Lee somehow actually does find something authentic amidst all these young men of varied backgrounds who show up in a grey little German burg to do dance combat before a screaming audience, whether it's the South Korean boys desperate for familial approval or the multi-racial team from a poor Parisian suburb who don't seem to have anything to lose. Last but not least it's the long-shot Americans, having to work almost harder than any of the other 17 teams to try and beat them at an art form invented, and almost forgotten, decades ago in their own country.

Reviewed at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.



Planet B-Boy

Facts and Figures

Run time: 95 mins

In Theaters: Friday 21st March 2008

Distributed by: Elephant Eye Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 35 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , Amy Lo

Also starring:

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