Directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 91 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: April 29, 2008
Review Date: April 24, 2008
The step routines are impressive indeed but the drama not so much in Ian Iqbal Rashid’s How She Move. The film’s main claim-to-fame is a stunning series of dance routines performed by a half dozen hard-working, synchronized dance troupes, but rather than make a documentary (which probably would have made for a better overall film), the producers have added a stereotypical teen angst saga to surround the steps, and those scenes must be endured until the hip-hop extravaganzas begin anew.
Raya Green (Rutina Wesley) is forced home to Toronto from her high class prep school when money runs out due to her parents having to pay debts from her older sister’s drug habit and subsequent death and funeral. In public high school, she runs into the usual peer challenges: girls from the hood who resent her attitude and guys who want her to hook up with them. Raya has other ideas, however. In order to return to her beloved school, she takes a scholarship exam which she thinks she did poorly on, so her only resort is to join one of two available step dancing groups at school, both of whom are going to compete in Detroit for a $50,000 prize in a national step dance competition. The problem is that the female troupe is led by her arch enemy Michelle (Tre Armstrong) and the male troupe headed by heartthrob Bishop (Dwain Murphy) isn’t too keen on turning their group co-ed even though Raya has some serious moves to display.
The dramatic stories involving the various characters couldn’t be more hackneyed or predictable (sneaking around behind the parents‘ backs to take part in the dancing of which they disapprove), and even the drama surrounding the dance competition is no different than if this film featured a football or basketball team vying for a big championship. It has the same ups and downs, injuries, disappointments, and a final face-off that almost every sports film in the history of the medium has contained. Screenwriter Annmarie Morais hasn’t come up with any innovations to spice up this routine and rather tired story.
But the dance routines themselves are quite splendid. A mixture of step dancing, break dancing, hip-hop, and locking with some chanting and even tumbling thrown in, the film gets off to a stunning start with a dance set to “I Love My Boots,” and from there each routine is novel and exhilarating. One might question the groups that make the finals (based on what we’re allowed to see of the semifinal routines), but the dances, choreographed by music video specialist Hi Hat, are to be applauded. Tremendous energy, athletic ability, and precise rhythm join singularly in some highly entertaining musical moments. Director Rashid films them well for the most part, usually allowing us to see the dancers’ full figures while in motion. Occasionally he concentrates unsuccessfully on upper bodies and faces to no great effect, but thankfully, this doesn’t happen too often.
It might come as a surprise that several of these actors had never danced before, but watching the finished product, it’s impossible to tell who began the film as primarily a dancer and who was primarily an actor. They all display equal gifts in both areas. Rutina Wesley must show the greatest range of emotions as the unhappy Raya, and she’s up to the task. Tre Armstrong as her nemesis Michelle also shows moxy as the bad girl who’s got good within her. Of the boys, Brennan Gademans makes the strongest impression as the brainy Quake, unappreciated younger brother to troupe leader Bishop. Shawn Desman as troupe member Trey and Conrad Coates and Melanie Nicholls-King as Raya’s anxious father and mother do very well with limited material.
The anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 transfer has its share of problems. Grain is moderate to heavy at times, and often the film has a digitized appearance. Though flesh tones can be accurate on occasion, they can also fluctuate into odd hues for no apparent reason. Blacks can be impressively deep, but often details in shadows get completely lost. Sharpness is usually good but not always. The film is divided into 13 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is very heavily focused on the front soundstage. Dialogue in the center channel isn’t always discernable with the unusually loud music coming from the front surrounds and leaking into the back. Bass in the music accounts for the entirety of the LFE channel, but it isn’t pushed to the max even with the bass heavy hip-hop music that the dancers perform to.
“The Characters of How She Move” features the nine young leading actors each talking about the characters they play in individual interviews. This nonanamorphic featurette runs 13¼ minutes.
“How She Move From Rehearsal to Film” is the best of the bonus features. It shows the intense rehearsals the actors went through to prepare for the grueling dance sequences in the film: five weeks, seven hours a day. Choreographer Hi Hat and director Ian Iqbal Rashid each discuss the rehearsal process and shooting schedule (the movie was filmed in 25 days). This nonanamorphic sequence lasts 8½ minutes.
“How She Move: Telling Her Story” allows screenwriter Annmarie Morais to tell how she came up with the story for the film. Director Rashid along with several of the film’s producers also discuss the personal nature of making this movie in Toronto. The nonanamorphic vignette runs 10 minutes.
The original theatrical trailer is presented in anamorphic widescreen and runs 2½ minutes.
The disc also features previews for Cloverfield, Blackout, Norbit, The Duchess, and Defiance.
How She Move features some incredible dance sequences tied to a clichéd story of high school hopes and dreams. Fans of step dancing will certainly want to see the film, maybe more than once.