It has been 20 years since the release of “Breakin'” and its sequel, “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” which came out seven months later. The Law of 20-Year Nostalgia, which dictates that once-popular things should come into vogue again two decades later, indicates we’re due for some more breakdancing, and “You Got Served” is here to dish up a big, cheesy platter of it.
Written entirely in slang and directed by music video guy Christopher B. Stokes, “You Got Served” is about a team of hip-hop dancers in central Los Angeles who spend their days shooting hoops and their nights competing against other dance crews at a club owned by the avuncular Mr. Rad (Steve Harvey, who is now officially interchangeable with Bernie Mac and Cedric the Entertainer, at least as far as casting directors are concerned).
The team is led by Elgin (Marques Houston) and his best friend David (Omarion Grandberry), homeboys to the bitter end, as long as David doesn’t actively pursue Elgin’s sister Liyah (Jennifer Freeman) like he wants to. To supplement their dance-off earnings, El and David occasionally deliver “merchandise” for Emerald (Michael “Bear” Taliferro), a large, pin-striped man who reminds me of Kingpin in “Daredevil.”
Then one day El and David get challenged by a white dance group from Orange County. Led by the mouthy, spiky-haired Wade (Christopher Jones), this group puts up $5,000 against El’s crew, a bet El and David gladly take. When they show up to the competition, though, some double-crossing leads them to discover that the “you” of the film’s title is themselves, and served is definitely what they got.
This leads to a petty feud between friends, some tidily packaged drama and life lessons, and a finale set at an MTV-sponsored dance-off where the winners get $50,000 and a chance to appear in Lil’ Kim’s new video.
The performances in the film are passionate and likable, if not especially nuanced — better than you’d expect, considering everyone was cast for their dancing skills, not their acting.
By the same token, the breakdancing itself is infectiously energetic, and great fun to watch. The performers are amazing, giving full voice to the inventive, attitude-heavy, near-gymnastic work of choreographer Wade J. Robson (who has a cameo in the finale). I could watch the dance scenes all day; unfortunately, they are broken up by simple-minded, street-flavored melodrama that, while not as bad as it could have been, could not be considered “good” by any stretch of the imagination.
It gets sillier as it goes, and borrows more than a few plot points from “Bring It On” (2000) (plot points that weren’t exactly clever to begin with). By the time we are forced to endure the skank-encrusted presence of Lil’ Kim herself, one’s patience for the whole affair might have run out. But in the meantime, the dance scenes are fantastic, and they are plentiful.
C (1 hr., 34 min.; )