Although not as slick as the Step Up movies, Make Your Move is a corny delight.
Here is the central reason why dance movies work so well: They cannot be faked. Explosions are now done entirely by animators, stunt men are rendered against green screens, and even most stunt driving has been handed over to the experts in CGI. But dancing, when filmed well, has to be done by real dancers who learned real moves and real steps and choreographed a real routine. There is a very basic form of entertainment to the dance movie, and it all boils down to the dancing itself. If the dancing is great, then you need little else. Indeed, if the story begins to get in the way, it may prove to be a detriment; a natural extension of a good dance movie is a corny story.
Duane Adler’s Make Your Move (not to be confused with Step Up, Take the Lead, Stomp the Yard, or any other dance films with an imperative verb in the title) is everything a dance film needs to be. It has dance-talented leads, a hugely charismatic lead actress, an interesting enough story, and enough dance sequences to keep the movie afloat. Indeed, there is a dance sequence in the middle of Make Your Move wherein our handsomely bland hero Donny (Derek Hough) and our chirpy and wonderful heroine Aya (Korean pop idol BoA) seduce and undress one another – in dance – as a form of foreplay. The foreplay dance is one of the best dance numbers I’ve seen in any dance film.
And what is the story? Well, not that it strictly matters, but Make Your Move is essentially a Romeo and Juliet story. Romeo is a New Orleans ex-con named Donny who is trying to get a job in New York at his brother’s dance club. His brother is played by Wesley Jonathan. Juliet is the aspiring dance crew leader Aya, whose brother runs a rival dance club across town. The former club is underground and raucous. The latter club is snooty and high class. Both feature star dance acts as their draw. Donny tries to get on stage in both clubs. Aya has been forbidden. Aya also finds herself torn between her new romance with Donny, and the story’s Paris, a broad yuppie stereotype named Michael (Jefferson Brown) who seems to have escaped wholesale from Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, complete with a slicked-back ’80s hairdo.
Make Your Move takes place in a very modern multi-culti universe of unbelievably sexy people. I appreciate the modern trend of an incidental rainbow coalition of characters. I think this trend was codified by the Fast & Furious movies.
As Aya, BoA is a starlet worth keeping an eye on. In a film that only required her to play a shrinking violet with a hidden dance talent, BoA brought a good deal of humanity and charm. She smiles, giggles, and sparkles her way through every scene. Hough is serviceable as a leading man, but it’s the lovely BoA you’ll be looking at. She didn’t just Make Her Move, she Took the Lead. Indeed, there are a lot of small moments of quiet personality that make Make Your Move stand out. Supporting characters have more character than they are required to have, and there are a few throw-off gags that are actually funny.
Is the dialogue awful? Yes, it is. The screenplay is built of nothing but clichés and mucilage. But like I said, dance movies kind of require a tin ear approach. The story only need to be strong enough to carry the dance. Anything more involved would overshadow the sheer, pure joy of the dance. So when BoA gets up on a stage in an abandoned church to audition for the requisite Broadway Hotshot by dancing with her drumming crew, we feel nothing but joy. There is no longer anything at stake, but to watch a pretty and talented pop star performing well. The dancing isn’t perfect (for perfect dancing, I will refer you to the now-immortal Step Up 3D), but it’s spirited.
Make Your Move. Shoddy, but good. Adler, by the way, is the mastermind behind Step Up, Save the Last Dance, and Make It Happen. The man is a genre unto himself.
Rating: 3.5 Burritos