Image Entertainment // 2011 // 97 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 18th, 2012
Step up and get served.
From the Upright Citizens Brigade, a feature-length musical comedy, written and directed by founding member Matt Besser (Bad Teacher) and featuring UCB icons Matt Walsh (Ted), Ian Roberts (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy), and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation). That's a lot of firepower backing this production.
In the heart of the city, a group of young people resist drugs and take it to the man through their dance skills and spandex bulges. Led by Funky Bunch (Michael Cassady, Killers) and rich-girl-turned-plucky-urbanite-grinder Cocolonia (Megan Heyn, Hollywood Taffy), the gang must win an underground dance contest and earn enough money to bring their abandoned warehouse hangout up to building code. To do that, they'll have to overcome a rival dance gang led by the diabolical Dazzle(Drew Droege, Sassy Pants). And to do that, the legendary "Freak Dance" might have to make an appearance.
There's good news and bad news. The good news: Freak Dance is not a pathetic spoof movie in the vein of that Friedberg and Seltzer bilge (Spy Movie, Date Movie, Epic Movie). The bad news: It's still pretty dumb.
While not a parody of a specific movie, Freak Dance goofs on the dance film genre as a whole, with plenty of trademarked UCB absurdist comedy supplementing the jabs. The end product is a sticky mélange of rapid-fire comedy, with a handful of gags that land pretty hard (eliciting audible laughs from me), a bunch of so-so attempts that lightened my mood, and a dose of really moronic jokes.
Thankfully, my intelligence was never insulted. Even the gags that flatlined didn't really piss me off. At the very least, Besser and company were going for something more nuanced than Kim Kardashian impersonations. What tends to work against the humor is Besser's resistance to cut the setups short, allowing them to drag on well past their expiration date. Case in point: In the opener, we meet the dancers for the first time in a hospital where they go about infecting everyone with their hip-hop magic. It's essentially an extended dance number that never ends...and wears the joke out.
And it doesn't end there. The song and dance routines are voluminous. Credit Besser for creative overdrive, but Freak Dance feels over-saturated. With a new song every five-to-seven minutes, the quality is spread woefully thin; although the love song in the meat-packing plant is pretty awesome.
One thing that surprised me was the relative lack of raunchiness at play here. UCB never struck me as overtly debauched (save for their infamous "Little Donny" skit), but I attributed that to their basic cable venue. Unfettered, they would just let it all hang out, right? Nope. Freak dance is fairly tame, with only a surprise imploding head sequence, some salty lyrics, and Funky Bunch's omnipresent bulge comprising the edgiest stuff. There is one exception, however. The freak dance face-off finale is legitimacy tasteless.
The DVD: standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dolby 5.1 Surround, director's commentary, deleted scenes, and "The Danger of Freak Dancing" featurette.
I laughed, I smirked, I scratched my head. Freak Dance has a few
moves...just not enough.
Review content copyright © 2012 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes