Michael Dequina’s Review of You Got Served
You Got Served (PG-13)
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Anyone who buys a ticket for You Got Served is there to watch high-energy hip-hop dance numbers, and writer-director Christopher B. Stokes wastes no time in giving the audience what it wants, rolling the opening credits over what will be a commonplace scene for the rest of film: two dance crews engaged in a fierce performance battle. Stokes’s music video training serves him well for his film’s bread and butter though at times one wishes he’d lay off the cheesy visual tricks and simply just point and shoot these impressive displays—case in point, his irksome tendency to punch-up any hard landing or stomp with a quake of the frame.
|Cast overview, first billed only: |
Omarion …. David (as Omari Grandberry)
Marques Houston …. Elgin
Jennifer Freeman …. Liyah
J-Boog …. Rico (as Jarell Houston)
Lil’ Fizz …. Rashann (as Dreux Frederic)
Raz B …. Vick (as DeMario Thornton)
Marty Dew …. Marty
Jerome Jones …. Sonny
Tanee McCall …. Toya (as Tuere ’Tanee’ McCall)
Malcolm David Kelley …. Lil Saint
Meagan Good …. Beautifull
Steve Harvey …. Mr. Rad
Christopher Jones …. Wade
Robert Hoffman …. Max
Michael Taliferro …. Emerald (as Michael ’Bear’ Taliferro)
However, one almost wishes he’d shake the camera during any scene not featuring any dancing, for the dramatic scenes that fill in the spaces between street dance numbers could definitely use some livening up—or, rather, the actors. While they are very good dancers, that obviously wasn’t so much a factor in the casting of leads Marques Houston and Omari "Omarion" Grandberry as their popularity in the music world as members of, respectively, IMx and the recently disbanded B2K. Grandberry’s erstwhile B2K cohorts Jarell "J-Boog" Houston, DeMario "Raz-B" Thornton and Dreux "Lil’ Fizz" Frederic also turn up in smaller roles. While they all have some degree of natural presence, blessed with natural acting ability they are not. Similarly, female lead Jennifer Freeman (who plays Liyah, sister to Houston’s Elgin/love interest to Grandberry’s David) is most definitely easy on the eyes, but trouble starts whenever she opens her mouth. Her bizarrely slurred, slow-motion delivery of the would-be straight-faced line "Your boy is reeeeeeally trip-piiiiiiiiiiing" is the unintentional comic highlight of the film.
And that points to what is Stokes’s key miscalculation with You Got Served; I can see this same cast of relative acting novices working far better in a fairly lighthearted dance-centered feature, not something that takes itself so seriously. With the young audience hooked in by the dancing and music, Stokes tries to feed them something a little heavier, which is a noble ambition. That turns out to be a wasted effort, however, when all Stokes can serve are heavy-handed hood movie clich’s. Elgin and David’s side work for the neighborhood crime boss (Michael "Bear" Taliferro) leads to all manner of trouble, from a rift between the two best friends to—that old standby—the tragic demise of an innocent. That Stokes goes so far as to name the designated martyr character "Saint" shows how completely out of his element he is when attempting to tell a story.
But when the dialogue and melodrama is dialed down, the music is turned up, and everyone simply just shuts up and dances, You Got Served does spring to life, and all involved look more interested, invested and’crucially’comfortable. It’s too bad Stokes didn’t just make a non-narrative film about the street dancing culture; I’m sure even traditionally documentary-leery young audiences wouldn’t have minded, particularly considering the self-important, melodramatic tedium they have to endure to get to the too-few worthwhile bits that are served.