“You Got Served,” unfortunately, is not a picture about somebody who has received an unwanted subpoena. That might actually make for an interesting and entertaining story. Instead the flick has to do with dueling gangs of L.A. street dancers–an activity that turns out to be, as a spectator sport, about as engaging as watching a synchronized swimming meet minus the pool. Which is to say: Not very.
Actually, though, the dance moves–though repetitive and a tad tedious over the long haul–are by far the best part of Christopher B. Stokes’ movie. They’re certainly exuberant and bone-testing enough–in fact, you might find yourself thinking that the picture is funded by the Chiropractic Association of America as a means of drumming up business among the performers and any viewers who choose to try emulating them at home. What sinks things are the formulaic script and rudimentary acting. Omari Grandberry and Marques Houston, who resemble a more rubbery replay of Kid ’N Play without the former’s mountain of hair, star as David and Elgin, long-time buddies who are joint leaders of a street dancing crew that make a bit of money in contests conducted by good-guy neighborhood promoter Mr. Rad (Steve Harvey). Though these guys and their homies spend some of their day playing basketball on the local courts, they’re basically Gotta Dance fellows who dream of making a career, it would seem, out of their hip-hop terpsichore. They certainly don’t hold down real jobs; our “heroes” do pick up needed cash by acting as couriers for a local crime boss–true role models, they–but appear more to depend on the women in their lives (mothers and grandmothers, matriarchal types who apparently provide them with shelter and clothing–fathers are conspicuous by their absence). Trouble arises from an Orange County wannabe crew headed by Wade (Christopher Jones), a sneering, spike-haired white guy, which outpoints the locals in a match by stealing away one of their discontented members (“You got served”–i.e., “beaten,” the victors snarl); from a delivery gone wrong, in which Elgin gets jacked and left with a bum leg (that he nonetheless promptly gets back into shape by stretching exercises!); and from a breakup of the duo’s friendship, because David failed to watch Elgin’s back during the drop–he was too busy romancing Elgin’s pre-med student sister Liyah (Jennifer Freeman). As if all this weren’t bad enough, the crew’s resident mascot–an earnest kid named Lil Saint (Malcolm David Kelley)–gets shot in a drive-by. Can the two friends bury the hatchet and make up in time to defeat Wade’s crew in the biggest contest ever–which not only carries a winning purse of $50,000, which will meet all their needs, but a part in a Lil’ Kid music video–the aspiration of every dancer? The final fifteen minutes or so of “You Got Served” is like a dancing variant of the old Van Damme kung-fu flicks, with the two teams facing off in increasingly gasp-inducing routines until the predictable denouement arrives, free-frame style. It’s certainly pure accident that the closing competition is called “The Big Bounce”–which also happens to be the title of another movie opening on the same day. (It’s not good, either.)
As a showcase for choreography, “Served” isn’t bad, although some of the early matches look to have been shot in overly cramped, smallish settings. Whenever the picture shifts into the drama, though, the effect is deadening. The dialogue is laughable and the delivery worse; there’s an amateur night quality to all the acting it’s difficult not to ridicule. Technically the picture is mediocre but passable.
Come to think of it, maybe a subpoena is in order–for the makers of “You Got Served” for offenses against the viewing public. If you pay to see this movie, you get snookered.