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Case Number 06270: Small Claims Court

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Freestyle

Lionsgate // 2005 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 24th, 2005

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson shakes it like a Polaroid picture.

The Charge

Bust a move! (and a hip probably)

The Case

Brian Friedman, a renowned dance choreographer for music videos, wants you to tear up the dance floor like a mutha! Freestyle is an odd animal. It's a reality show mixed with performance art mixed with a how-to video. At 85 minutes, that's an awful lot of things for a simple DVD to be.

Here's the premise. Friedman puts out a call to amateur dancers from around the world to try out for a special dance event. Out of the hundreds of potential dancers who show up, only six will be given the opportunity to dance with Friedman himself, to an originally-choreographed set of moves.

Once the dancers are selected and introduced to the audience, the how-to portion of the program kicks in. This is the bulk of the DVD, which makes sense, as it is the one segment most heavily marketed. Friedman, supported by a gaggle of cool hip dudes and dudettes, will walk you through four specific routines that have been used by big-shot artists like Ashanti and Mya.

The last part of the feature is the final show, with Friedman and his dancers gyrating like crazy in front of a packed venue while wearing too much eye shadow. There's your hip-hop 1-2-3 punch. Here's a look at how the three segments stack up:

Part I: The Tryouts

The first chunk of the disc smells a lot like American Idol. A flock of amateur kids lining up for a shot at stardom, or in this case, entry-level-sorta-kinda-maybe stardom. Friedman flies though the tryout process, and suddenly we've got our six recruits. Each kids sits down and opines a bit about their experiences and their motivations to dance and yadda yadda yadda.

They're not particularly charismatic folks, and their brief snippets of dialogue are not engaging. On the other hand, hardly any time was devoted to this element, so it's a wash. Overall, despite the few interesting glimpses into the life of an amateur dancer (one guy says you should drop out of school, lay out a piece of cardboard on the sidewalk, and dance away), there's not much point to this.

Part II: The Workouts

Here is the real value potential of this disc—the step-by-step routines that Friedman runs through. Freestyle is the third how-to-dance disc I've reviewed (You Got Served: Take it to the Streets and Learn to Salsa being the other two), and unfortunately it's also the most useless.

Suffering from too little focus and time devoted to it, this segment falls short for two main reasons:

• It is too quick.
Friedman blasts through these complicated routines. Sure, you can pause and review as often as you want, but these lessons rocket by so fast that I'm pretty sure you'll spend most of your time fiddling with your remote.

• It is poorly shot.
For these dance lessons the camera angles are very important. Much of the time Friedman's feet are out of frame, making it difficult to gauge the all-important footwork. And then the director will switch shots suddenly, in the middle of a lesson, focusing on a back-up dancer at an odd angle. This schizoid camera-work is not very conducive to learning.

Part III: The Shoutouts

Finally there is the big dance exhibition, the event for which Friedman and his pupils have been practicing. Granted, there's some skilled busting of moves on display here, but it's not tailored toward furthering your dance career. Nice and visceral; but, in the end, a disposable fifteen minutes.

Not much to hip-hop about in the technical department. A full screen approach suffers from some odd-looking color levels. The disc does sport a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, but the sound is front-loaded, with little effort put into the surrounds.

Save for a casual but fluffy dancer's commentary track, extras are lousy. Interviews with Britney Spears, Hillary Duff, Mya, and a squeaky-voiced Aaron Carter offer no insight other than thoughts of how cool and hot Brian Friedman is. A trailer, a warm-up spot, and a promo for an upcoming dance contest finish off the batch.

Freestyle proclaims "Watch it! Learn it! Dance it!" But a lack of focus on the actual "learning" part leads to a mixed bag that's more "watching" than anything else. To be fair, this disc might prove useful to experienced dancers who can pick up on the blitzkrieg of moves, but for the novice there will be much pausing and rewinding in your future. Court adjourned.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 75

Perp Profile

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• Spanish
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Instructional
• Performance

Distinguishing Marks

• Dancer Commentary
• Warm-Up Spot
• Dance Contest Promo
• Celebrity Interviews
• Trailer

Accomplices

• Official Site








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