Last week, I received a call from a retired teacher who attempted to tear me a new one for committing several grammatical faux pas in my reviews, like using the word gotta. I can only imagine the fits of vein-popping rage she'll go into when she opens up the paper and sees that the purposely ungrammatically titled "How She Move" is opening in theaters today.
I can just see her now, falling to the floor, convulsing, eyes rolling in the back of her head, wondering why our North American schools have failed us.
If you haven't already guessed, "Move" is the latest in a long line of movies ("Drumline," "Stomp the Yard") that have some young, eager black person using his or her musical or rhythmic talents as a way of getting out of the ghetto.
In this case, it's Raya (Rutina Wesley), a gal who managed to get out and attend a private school. Unfortunately, she moves back in with her family when her tuition gets too high, just in time for the funeral of her drug-addicted big sis.
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When she's not telling anyone who will listen that she has to get out of the ghetto, she joins a step crew so she can compete in the big "Step Monster" competition and win some cash for school.
You see, Raya lives in a ghetto (in Canada!?) where stepping is not only extremely popular, it's apparently the only way to escape the ghetto's clutches. Nearly everyone in the movie clamors to be a stepper, and Raya is a stepping prodigy.
Earnest to the bone, "Move" doesn't even try to hide its obviousness. You should know exactly what you're going to get, because the movie couldn't map out its moves any more simply. You're always two to three steps ahead of it.
Director Ian Iqbal Rashid ("Touch of Pink") and writer Annmarie Morais have Raya go through a laundry list of contrivances:
- Try to persevere in a male-dominated world when she joins an all-male crew (didn't know stepping was a man's game -- good to know!).
- Flirt and fight with that crew's hotheaded captain (Dwain Murphy).
- Do not succumb to the opportunistic temptations of a rival, villainous step crew leader (Cle Bennett), who we know is the heavy because his voice is deeper than anyone else's.
- Convince a strict, overprotective mother (Melanie Nicholls-King) that she is not wasting her life by stepping.
- And finally, bring the pain in a climactic, show-stopping performance that blows out the windows of a perfectly decent car.
Check, check, check, check and CHECK!
I gotta admit, most of the step sequences (featuring music handpicked by Montell "This Is How We Do It" Jordan) are entertaining and acrobatic enough to keep the movie from sliding completely into hokum.
It's when they stop communicating with their feet and start communicating with their mouths that "How She Move" fails to, well, move you.