"Battle of the Year" isn't so much inspired by director Benson Lee's 2007 break-dancing documentary "Planet B-Boy" as it is an ad for it. Not only is the previous well-regarded film referred to by name — "You've seen 'Planet B-Boy,' right?" — but footage from it is used intermittently throughout. Add in overt product placement from Sony, Puma and Braun — star Josh Holloway actually "shaves" his considerable stubble with an electric razor — and this 3-D spectacle is less the dance movie that's going to make b-boying cool again than a shill for sponsors' gear.
Holloway plays Jason "Wonder Bread" Blake, a one-time b-boy, we're told (although that's not remotely believable), and champion basketball coach recruited to assemble an American dream team to take to the titular tournament in Montpellier, France. His biggest challenge is getting his ego-driven dancers like goofball Rooster (singer Chris Brown) and assiduous Do Knock (real-life b-boy Jonathan "Do Knock" Cruz) to perform as a team. Thus, "Battle" eschews the Romeo-and-Juliet romance of other dance movies for the structure of an inspiring sports flick.
Still, it's no less formulaic, with cliché-ridden dialogue and a predictable plot offering the flimsiest framework on which to hang the dance scenes' feats of incredible athleticism and artistry — a philosophic contrast worthy of much more discussion than the perfunctory Magic Johnson metaphor that Blake tenders.
"Battle of the Year"
MPAA rating: PG-13 for language and some rude behavior
Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes
Playing: In general releaseCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun