- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2004

“You Got Served” should have been the perfect advertisement for the rising R&B; band B2K, but the four band members had to go and break up before the film’s release.

The best that can be said of the street-dancing movie now is that it follows in the hallowed footsteps of 1984’s “Breakin’” and “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.”

Praise doesn’t get any more faint, but when you sprinkle sizzling dance sequences around a story as soggy as “Served’s,” what else can you expect?

Written and directed by B2K manager Christopher B. Stokes, “Served” expends so much creative effort on the dance floor that virtually nothing is left for the story.

Any film that kills off a defenseless character only to nudge its stars toward reconciliation deserves to be dissed.

Mind you, audiences shouldn’t expect a sweeping epic out of a street-dancing film. They want rousing dance numbers and a fresh soundtrack.

It’s here that “Served” brings it on, even if it has to steal a major plot element from a certain cheerleading flick.

David (Omari Grandberry of B2K) and Elgin (Marques Houston of IMX) are the kings of their L.A. crew, a street-dancing posse whose moves leave the competition in tatters. They’re too proud to turn down a challenge, so when some snotty Orange County types threaten their turf, they agree to a dance duel with $5,000 on the line.

What they don’t know is that one of their former dancers has joined the O.C. baddies and taken their best moves along with him.

Our heroes promptly get “served,” losing their cloak of invincibility as well as their life savings.

The only way to recoup their losses is to run errands for a shady businessman (Michael Taliferro).

That poor judgment sets the stage for the final dance-off featuring staggering displays of human flexibility and skill.

Mr. Stokes doesn’t break any new ground framing the dance sequences. He doesn’t have to. The wondrous performers are captured from conventional camera angles, all the better not to miss a single movement.

“You Got Served” revolves around inner-city characters with the kind of impulse control deficiencies that better screenwriters could have leveraged for, well, anything more interesting than what’s presented here.

Instead, we watch an amateurish romance between David and Elgin’s sister, played by Jennifer Freeman, and learn that true buddies never, ever turn off their cellphones.

None of the characters can turn to a father figure for guidance, so the city’s dance referee (Steve Harvey) doles out the wisdom.

Some black critics have complained — with good reason — that Hollywood often writes characters they dub “the magical Negro” to light the way for poor, befuddled whites. Think Michael Clarke Duncan in “The Green Mile” (1999) and Will Smith in “The Legend of Bagger Vance” (2000).

Here, Mr. Harvey’s character does the honors for the mostly black cast, at one point solving a major plot conflict with a wave of his hand.

It’s not racist by any stretch. It’s just lazy filmmaking.

“You Got Served” stages an exhilarating climax as the two crews battle for the chance to appear in a Lil’ Kim video. Imagine how much more could have been at stake if we were given full-blooded characters to root for, instead of a pastiche of hip-hop cliches.

**

WHAT: “You Got Served”

RATING: PG:13 (Harsh language and some violence)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Christopher B. Stokes. Original music by Tyler Bates. Cinematography by David Hennings.

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

WEB SITE: https://www.sonypictures.com/movies/yougotserved/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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