Three years since Streetdance 3D hit British audiences as a superior dance movie encouraged by the Britain’s Got Talent-inspired streetdance explosion, here’s a version of the movie for artsy youngsters which, though wrapped up as a political statement of sorts, adds absolutely nothing inspiring or different to the dance movie genre.
A lot the problem isn’t with this film in particular, as the sheer number of dance movies released every year borders on the ludicrous when you realise how similar all of them are. That said, this is depressingly haphazard and seems like a wasted opportunity to address certain real-life issues.
All Stars boasts a talented young cast but, unfortunately, that talent lies mainly in their dancing rather than acting abilities. The premise is simple – six young performers come up with a plan to save their youth centre from closure by putting on a show. Jaden (Akai Osei-Mansfield), an aspiring dancer whose parents have banned him from spending valuable studying time performing, and Ethan (Theo Stevenson), who wants to impress a girl by winning a dance battle against her current boyfriend, assemble a group of weird and wonderful dancers who they plan to train up as a crew.
Amy (Fleur Houdijk) is Ethan’s besotted next door neighbour taking care of her near-comatose father (a mute John Barrowman), Brian (Gamal Toseafa) is the chubby kid who may or not be a brilliant dancer and Tim (Dominic Herman-Day) and Rebecca (Amelia Clarkson) are the painfully posh brother-sister duo who are more familiar with the ballroom than the street when it comes to dancing. There are slight, and outdated, class issues in the way Tim and Rebecca dominate the comic relief, which is just one of many issues I had with the film.
I don’t claim to know how young audiences will respond to the film (there was a young child in my screening who enjoyed it immensely) but adults will have a hard time swallowing the overwhelmingly anti-adult sentiments of the film. In this world, the kids know best and their parents are just trying to keep them down. I have a problem with this attitude, no matter how true to life it is, and feel it’s a little irresponsible for a film targeted at the very young to include so overtly. Only Ashley Jensen’s club runner and Kimberly Walsh’s doting mum are left out, as well as the villainous characters who inevitably come around in the end.
There are some bright spots – namely the dream-sequence dance numbers that suddenly take the film into surrealism just to show off the talented dancers in the cast. The strangest example of this is a John Barrowman tap number that is unrelated to anything going on in the film’s reality. It’s as if the filmmakers suddenly realised who they had cast as Amy’s father and constructed a scene at the last minute (Kimberly Walsh, however, gets no such chance to show off her dancing prowess). As weird as these moments are, however, it enlivens the film at points where you may have mentally checked out.
Houdijk’s (Billy Elliot The Musical) nice girl-next-door was the stand-out performer for me, with an easy likeability and some relatively meaty drama to deal with. But otherwise, the only saving grace of the film is its high-energy dance sequences. One day we might see a dance movie that remembers to do something different with its story, but it’s clear that today is not that day. Despite attempting to tackle topical issues like arts cuts and closing youth centres, it offers no solution to the problem other than collection boxes and sit-ins – I get the sense that All Stars won’t be catching the government’s attention.
Very young kids might find some enjoyment in All Stars, but it’s corny, light-entertainment cinema at its most irritating. It benefits from an assembly of young talent and reliable Brit stars, but the uninspired story will likely remove any interest you could have had in its central message.
All Stars is out in UK cinemas on Friday 3rd May.
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