After years of petty larceny and grifting, Donny (Derek Hough) is ready to go straight. He's got one talent to fall back on, his incredible dancing skills, which are rooted in tap but leave room for flair. Unfortunately, Donny's parole officer doesn't consider a piece of cardboard and a hat on a New Orleans street corner to be a real job, so Donny blows town and violates his parole to see his brother from another mother, Nick (Wesley Jonathan), who runs a hot NYC nightclub. On his first night in town, his gamble pays off: a group named Cobu hits the stage, unleashing a style that combines dance with the rhythm of Asian drums, with the beautiful Aya (Korean pop star BoA) leading the group. Minutes later, Donny's on the club's bar, locked in an impromptu dance battle with Aya using beer cans taped to his shoes to tap, but his crush comes with complications. Aya's brother is Kaz (Will Yun Lee), Will's bitter former partner, who got cut out and was forced to partner with a rich white guy in a different neighborhood. Between Will and Kaz inching toward an all-out blood war and the threat of arrest and deportation hanging over Donny and Aya's respective heads, is love even a possibility?
People have a perception of movie critics as stuffy, pretentious snobs who turn up their nose at the idea of a good time. The thing is, plenty of popular, mainstream movies have things that will jump out at a critic as poor writing, poor acting, poor directing, etc., that average viewers might not notice. That part isn't complicated, what's complicated is trying to get the viewer to understand it's not a violation of some critic's code to enjoy a movie like Make Your Move, nor does that invalidate the critical drubbing some other movie earned. There's no question that Make Your Move is built on cliches and old ideas, that it has little in the way of dramatic substance, and it's unlikely to be a watermark of any sort in film history. It's also well-made in all the areas that count.
Although the Step Up series has found a certain life among all audiences thanks to its endearingly goofy use of 3D on the last couple of outings, the original Step Up and many of its ilk are romances designed to flutter the hearts of tween girls. Make Your Move is no different; what's pleasing is how well the romance actually works. The unrelated conflict between Will and Kaz is a more than reasonable roadblock, and director / writer Duane Adler doesn't waste time with miscommunication or too many scenes of the grumpy brothers complaining. Since Will has beef with Kaz, that beef extends to Aya -- her performance at Will's nightclub when Donny first sees her is a guerilla invasion of the club. Aya is fighting to get a top dance agent to notice her group before her green card runs out, and she hopes a flash show will get word of mouth going. All of this contributes balance to how much the film focuses on Donny and Aya's respective hopes and dreams -- they both have lives apart from one another. There's also a dance number that simultaneously serves as the lead-in to and the alternative to a sex scene.
More importantly, Make Your Move also succeeds on a dance front, offering up nine or ten electrifying numbers. The Cobu dance routine is wonderfully energetic, demanding both the viewer's eyes and ears. The characters knock their drumsticks together, flip and swap them from hand to hand, and back to the drums themselves, then even dancing on top of one of the drums with a metal tray draped across it. Meanwhile, the film builds up Donny's tap routine into something special as well, with an entire chorus line of folks hopping on stage to tap along with him (I guess Nick's hot nightclub exclusively attracts professional dancers). In addition to the "sex scene", Donny and Aya also share an intimate dance in her studio that is as much a character bit as it is visual spectacle. The work of choreography team Napoleon and Tabitha D'umo, as well as Yako Miyamoto (the real leader of Cobu), Make Your Move's moves are excellent.
Story-wise, there are a number of complications involving permits, gunshots, viral videos, and sibling rivalry, but Adler is wise enough to blaze through this material, keeping the focus of the film on the dance routines and the sexual chemistry. Like many of the mainstream blockbusters that get dragged across the critical coals, it does play to the converted, but the difference is that Make Your Move arranges its shortcomings in the least obtrusive areas, allowing its strengths to shine. There's a bit of electricity coming off this thing -- no guilt in taking pleasure.
Make Your Move arrives with pink and purple artwork highlighting the romance angle and pushing the film toward tween girls, straight out of some sort of design package that throws in the starry swooshes, the spotlights, and the brilliant pastel colors. The single-disc release comes in an eco-friendly Vortex Blu-ray case, and there is no insert.
The Video and Audio
The disc sports a top-notch 1.78:1 1080p AVC transfer that easily delivers the film's digitally captured images to home video without any distortion or compression. Colors are vibrant, detail is excellent, contrast is strong, and no issues mar the picture. The image is accompanied by a marvelously rousing DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that expertly captures the rhythmic energy of Donny's tap-style dances and the beats of Aya's drums. As a home video presentation, Make Your Move has no flaws. English and English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included.
Make Your Move only has a couple of supplements, but they hit all the bases. The most substantial is an audio commentary by director / writer Duane Adler and choreographers Napoleon and Tabitha D'umo. Anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of the dancing and the work that went into it may want to give this track a spin, which goes into the requirements of the set, how to convey character through dance, as well as a number of other topics. Could've been livened up by the inclusion of the film's two leads, but it's good just the same.
Video extras include a brief but nicely comprehensive making-of featurette (16:55), which correctly chooses to focus on the dance, and how the styles of dance that Adler chose for the film drove the movie, particularly the style developed by Yako Miyamoto and performed by the group Cobu. The piece is nicely short on clips from the film and heavy on B-roll of the actors learning their complicated choreography. This is followed by a selection of deleted scenes (6:37), which are all pretty unremarkable and concern the story. In the case of a movie like this, economical is better, and all of these were wisely trimmed. Both video extras are in HD.
Trailers for Think Like a Man Too, Mom's Night Out, Gambit, and About Last Night (2014) play before the main menu. No trailer for Make Your Move is included.
Make Your Move doesn't break ground in the world of fiction, but its high-energy, does-what's-advertised pleasures will leave plenty of viewers tapping their feet. Recommended.
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