What makes that all the more disappointing is that the UCB long has been an SCTV-style hotbed of talent, counting Amy Poehler, Adam McKay and Matt Walsh among its success stories. Its members past and current include many comedians whose acts I admire and enjoy — many of them in this movie. That special something they share onstage, however, is out of step in this long-form feature.
The adorable Megan Heyn plays Cocolonia, the ballerina rich girl who wants to audition for the poor people’s Fantaseez Dance Crew, but her Pro Family Censorship group-running mother (Poehler) abhors dance, accusing its music of sounding “like murder … and drugs,” and taking a particular dislike to male dancers’ bulges. Those frontal bumps are of such exaggerated prominence here that they’re practically a subliminal promo for Eckridge.
Despite Mother’s poo-pooing the idea, Cocolonia auditions for and lands a spot on the ghetto-based crew, once they teach her — via an entire musical number — that upper-class asses don’t move they’re supposed to. Then a building inspector (writer/director Matt Besser, taking his film’s Officer Krupke role) threatens to shut Fantaseez’s clubhouse down if the crew can’t pay $3,023 in fines.
Things look hopeless until they learn of an upcoming underground dance competition with a $3,025 payout. If they can bust out the complex but fabled Freak Dance, aka “the forbidden dirty boogaloo,” they’re sure to win! But of course — it’s all part of the parody.
Freak Dance has such a promising opening. For the first 20 minutes or so, it’s wonderfully amusing. I even laughed aloud at a hospital scene in which the Fantaseez crew members — led by Funky Bunch (Michael Daniel Cassady, Killers) — use their combined dance powers to turn an entire ward into an extended choreographed number of warring pop-and-lock moves.
After that, the UCB’s stage roots start to show; it even feels more like a filmed play than a film. The story stays put, like a sketch wearing out its welcome, and sure enough, Freak Dance already has exhausted its ideas. Only a snatch of dialogue here and there stands out (such as this exchange of insults: “In your day, they played records with a bird’s beak.” “In your day, you were a monster baby”), but not to a degree of mitigation. The eight minutes of faux PSAs in the extras hold more laughs.
Even the initial novelty of the songs dissipates into a puddle; no longer do the original tracks introduce characters or move the story forward — they’re now about dissecting a pig carcass and trading “yo mama” jokes. Subtitles would have been nice, whether indigenous to the film or optional on the DVD, because not all of the lyrics are intelligible.
Besser’s direction matches the somewhat sloppy nature of the script, as shots are oddly cropped and framed. A scene with a doctor is notable — not for anything the two characters say, but for the distracting shadow of the boom mike, bouncing bounce back and forth overhead as they speak. —Rod Lott