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A stuck-up white former ballerina from the country meets a street-smart black hip-hop dancer from the inner city at "Musical High School," and the stage is set for a parody of everything from Flashdance to Bring It On.
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A lot of the Wayans family's previous outings have seemed less than well thought-out. A little, shall we say, half baked. Or maybe just TOO baked. In fact. a lot of them, especially the miserable Date Movie, seemed like they were rushed to screen after no more than a few beers and a couple of lame attempts to write some topical jokes.
Still, the Wayans collectively are a funny bunch of guys, with a keen eye for parody. And here in Dance Flick they've really got it right.
The first five minutes of this film are funnier than some of their other films in total. It's also great that instead of being an almost arbitrary strung-together series of events, this movie actually has a plot. It's not deep, but hey, it's making fun of a genre that's not exactly known for its Merchant Ivory sophistication.
Dance Flick hits High School Musical head on, but it references so many other flicks that I think I might actually see it again, with other people, just to catch more of the allusions. The tribute to Flashdance is hilarious, and the inclusion of a dead-on impersonation of Tracy from Hairspray. There's a flamboyantly gay character called Jack obviously modelled on Zak Effron, hitting that fantasy straight guys seem to have that Effron must be gay, because otherwise his appeal is extremely threatening.
In the supporting character category, Chris Elliot gets higher billing than he probably deserves for a very brief and largely extraneous cameo as the ex-ballerina's dad, but Amy Sedaris is absolutely hilarious, as usual, as the utter bitch of a dance teacher Ms. Camel-Toe (pronounced "Ca-MEL to-EH", natch).
And the Wayans are everywhere, from Shawn as a no-good Baby Daddy, to Marlon as the drama teacher who seems to be cribbing from Will Ferrell's James Lipton impersonation from SNL.
What makes it really special, though, is that the dancing is actually damned good. All the actors can bust a move, especially Damon Wayans Jr. as the hero Thomas. David Alan Grier puts in a show-stopping appearance as the ridiculously obese gangster Sugar Bear, and Shoshana Bush and Essence Atkins sell the over-the-top plot with unbelievable conviction. Essence is particularly funny in what is probably the world's first nine and a half months pregnant big-budget dance extravaganza.
This ain't no intellectual romp through the history of dance in film. The Wayans haven't gone back to the classic "dance flicks" of the Gene Kelly / Fred Astaire eras, choosing instead to delve only back far enough to deliver a spirited number like "Gay!" (a parody of "Fame!")
But some of the unlikeliest bits are also the funniest -- like Megan (Bush)'s restaging of the final number from Little Miss Sunshine, or a subtle reference to the "dance space" scene from Dirty Dancing.
It's the writing and the dancing that make this offering stand high above a lot of the previous Wayans films, and yeah, the gang's all here. Not a piece of high art, but more than entertaining, especially if you've ever seen one of those ubiquitous "Dance Flicks."