I want it known: The 1980s were not the crux of all life in the universe. I know that Gen-Xers were formidable in their pop culture, and that we’re still living down the sad ripples of the pop culture of the Reagan era, but ‘80s nostalgia should not rule our minds in the way it does. And it should certainly not be the primary inspiration for hard-working spoof comedians who seem to find something intrinsically hilarious about headbands and leg warmers. I would perhaps argue that headbands and leg warmers are only going to funny when they’re put in a certain context. I didn’t see Kickin it Old Skool, but I would argue that that film’s premise (about a man who goes into a coma in the 1980s and emerges in the early 2000s) is at least more interesting than an obvious an unfunny piece of overtly “clever” flotsam like Freak Dance, the first attempt of The Upright Citizens Brigade to make a feature film.
Freak Danceis a spoof of dance-off movies, and a musical. Another mistake: Don’t spoof dance-off movies. The dance-off genre is so goofy as is, and the stories so simple (and, I would argue, the genre is so pure) that they’re already kind of spoofing themselves. Goofing on the goofy ain’t gonna work. The story, such as it is, follows a young white gal named Cocolonia (Megan Heyn) who defies her mother (Amy Poehler) to join a street dance crew, led by the handsome Funky Bunch (Michael Daniel Cassady). She gets embroiled in an underground dance-off, etc. etc. etc. Do you really want to know the story of this thing? Do you want to hear about the saucy Latina who can’t read and says “motherf*cker” a lot? Or the evil building code guy? Or the cameo from Patch Adams (topical!)?
If you’re going to make a comedy musical, here’s a hint: really come up with good music and dancing. Freak Dance decided, I think because of their low budget, to mine laughs from the fact that the dancers in the film couldn’t dance, and the singers could not sing. After a few minutes of this attempt to make the clearly amateur look like an ironic stab, I knew I was in for a long haul. For many extended periods, I began to see myself on the couch, watching myself watching Freak Dance, realizing I was in a room with crooning comedians, trying to get me to giggle by singing off-key. Off-key singing can be hilarious. The National Anthem in The Naked Gun makes me laugh, and Brando was hilarious in Guys & Dolls. But there’s nothing funny, not even in an ironic way, about the bad dancing in your dance film. No, not even if you have a pair of tube socks stuffed down your red shiny stretchpants.
The film’s comedy doesn’t extend past its silly outfits. And jokes about the word “booty.” There’s even a song about booty. I did laugh once in an early scene, wherein a doctor illustrated to an injured man that his head may explode by showing him a drawing his 6-year-old had done. He explains that it’s terrible, but it will still look really cool. But then the victim will show that too much Lambada can burn off your genitals. Tee hee. Oh my gut.
Step Up: Revolution is coming out soon. There are three other Step Up movies in the world. Are they silly? Yes. Are they fun? Hell yeah. Especially Step Up 3D. What does Freak Dance add to the conversation? Nothing. There I was. I was having a nice, light conversation with Step Up, when Freak Dance, spilling a can of Natural Light on my floor, busted in, drunk, from across the room. It yelled about how stupid Marky Mark was, grabbed its crotch, and then puked on my shoes. Freak Dance is not coming to my next party.