Probably the only thing that people are wondering about the Wayans’ Dance Flick is whether it’s closer to Don’t Be a Menace or White Chicks. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure everyone already knows the answer. For whatever reason, the Wayans’ brand of comedy has fallen off from the Ivory tower it was perched on in the mid-90s. Maybe time has passed them by while failing to innovate, maybe they stepped too far back from the cutting edge, maybe having every member of their family contribute creatively waters down the humor. Who knows. What’s for sure is that Dance Flick falls flat.
A parody of several “dance” movies likes Fame, Hairspray, and the totally timely Save the Last Dance, Thomas Uncles (Damon Wayans Jr.) is a geek from the wrong side of the tracks who has to team up with Megan White (Shoshanna Bush) in order to beat the 49 Crew at the dance off, win the money to pay off the dangerous Sugar Bear (David Alan Grier), and possibly get the girl.
First of all, a few of the jokes work. It’s not a movie devoid of all humor – there are a few set pieces that work really well, and I laughed out loud two or three times. Most of those moments involve the old guard. David Alan Grier brings a lot to the table even though he’s basically given a bunch of food puns and a ridiculous fat suit. It’s a similar story with Keenan Ivory Wayans as the club promoter who keeps trying to swindle the dance crews, but the very best of them is Damon Wayans as an eccentric theater teacher. Outside the “In Living Color” family, Essence Atkins is another bright spot which isn’t surprising considering she’s been doing comedy since her early teens.
There’s potential with the young side of the cast, but it’s never really brought out. The first two jokes of the movie involve urine and a guy shoving his head into his own ass. If that doesn’t set the tone, I don’t know what does. Even better at setting the tone is the very weird timing, a timing that throws a joke in the face of the audience and then loses almost all momentum until the next round of physical comedy. Even the wordplay has a similar pace, and it’s probably just a testament to the inexperience of the main cast. The Wayans clan hasn’t found another Anna Faris in Shoshanna Bush, and Damon Wayans Jr has a long, long way to go if he expects to be even near the comedian his father is.
But did anyone really expect any different? The flick is better than any Friedberg/Seltzer effort, but not by much. The majority of the movie is inhabited by bad jokes and juvenile humor that’s been done hundreds of times before.
Oddly enough, if we mock the ” ____ Movie” movement (and make no mistake, Flick is firmly planted in that world) for simply replaying scenes from current popular culture for audiences to yell “hey, I recognize that!” at the screen, this movie fails because of the opposite reason. The jokes are stale because a lot of what they are mocking is just old. Hell, Save the Last Dance, came out 8 years ago – back in the day when Julia Stiles still had a career. Why rehash it?
Dance Flick is basically the feature-length version of every episode of “America’s Funniest Videos” – only not as funny because it has “professionals” trying too hard to be funny instead of some dad trying to teach his son to bat off a tee. Balls are going to get injured, but you only really feel like laughing at one. Still, just like AFV is still on the air (because I watch it all the time), I’m sure Dance Flick will find an audience. It’s just sad to see that comedians that were once at the forefront of the game have failed to keep up with the envelope after pushing it. Save one moment with a breakdancing baby (fresh out of the womb), nothing in the movie is shocking in any way. It’s all played out.
Maybe it’s unfair to grade something like this against the past work of Keenan Ivory and Damon considering it was written alongside Craig, Shawn and Damien (who makes his directorial debut), but if these comedians continue to go for easy humor, it’s difficult to have any respect for them.