Who's In It: Aimee Garcia, Al Bandiero, Gina Rodriguez, Derrick Denicola, Andres Perez-Molina
The Basics: Carmen (Garcia) is a young adult searching for something bigger in her life. She has opportunities and talents that other people in her family didn't have, like being a dancer, and attending a junior college--and they never let her forget it, which makes for excellent family dinners. Along with her best friend Gina (Rodriguez), she navigates her way through that tough time in life where it's just becoming important to figure out who you are and what you are capable of. With the help of a tough teacher (Bandiero), Carmen starts answering some of these questions.
What's The Deal: I wanted a dancing movie with Latin flare, but ended up getting a really long after school special. Director/writer Carmen Marron says that although the film isn't based on her life, it is based on things she saw growing up as a street dancer and later as a guidance counselor. That made a ton of sense, because in 90 minutes it is filled to the brim with cliché Issues. Domestic violence, interracial love, immigrant parents, family drama, education, being a teenager. I was so tired by the end I felt like I had just relived all 7 of my teenage years over again.
What I Loved: Gina Rodriguez and Aimee Garcia make great best friends. Garcia did a pretty good job of having a baaaad attitude, and Rodriguez really stood out as the goofy, resilient sidekick. She's like an America Ferrera that I would like to go cause trouble with. The other good part of the film? The releasing company, Pantelion, is a venture between Lionsgate and Televisa. Earlier this year they released From Prada to Nada and they have more films on the schedule. So far, their films are well-produced and technically great. Although I haven't seen anything I have loved, I am rooting for them.
What I Didn't Love: The dancing was uninspired. The key to movies about dancing is that they have to make me want to be a dancer, or at the very least marvel at the capabilities of the human body and spirit. This film has several listed choreographers, and their combined efforts didn't get me out of my seat. Since I never saw a routine that made me yell aloud in the theater like I did at every Step Up movie, I checked out early. The screenwriting was lackluster and confusing--was Carmen supposed to be a crappy dancer? People make references to it throughout the film, and she spends most of the movie getting taught moves by better dancers--but I only want to see that movie if the ending involves her doing the kick-ass routine we knew she was capable of. There was none of that here; just a disjointed audition for a dancing school that will hopefully teach her how to do better in the future. I was bummed out at the end, when I should have left pathetically but optimistically trying to emulate a pop and lock.