THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"YOU GOT SERVED"

I know a few things about the R&B group B2K because my wife is a fan of theirs, and of hip-hop music in general. Although I too like my share of the music, I have never, ever understood why anyone would like B2K. To me, their songs are not music, they’re product - an assemblage of meaningless hip-hop clichés and familiar hip-hop beats fused together in the most generic of ways. There is nothing distinctive or original about them. To me, being a B2K fan is akin to being a fan of Xerox copies. Nevertheless, the members of B2K have apparently achieved sufficient success to warrant their own movie, You Got Served, and it suffers from the same problem. It’s as though someone threw every bit of hip-hop culture into a computer, which then spit out a screenplay.

B2K lead singer Omari Grandberry (who recently fled the group) stars as David, a young man who participates in underground dance competitions with his “crew” – fellow B2K members J-Boog, Lil Fizz, and Raz B. (Can you ever imagine a world in which someone utters the words: “And the Oscar goes to…J-Boog!”? Me neither.) These competitions take place in an old warehouse owned by Mr. Rad (Steve Harvey). Mr. Rad seems to have nothing going on in his life except hanging around teenagers and running these shows. It makes him seem a little bit creepy, to be honest.

David and his friend Elgin (Marques Houston – not in B2K but an R&B singer nonetheless) do some work delivering “packages” for a local gangster. The content of the packages is never revealed, but it’s safe to assume they are not delivering pizzas. The friendship sours when David bails out on a delivery so he can hang out with Elgin’s sister Liyah (Jennifer Freeman). Elgin gets “jacked” and has his leg broken in the process. He blames David for not being there to help him, plus he’s angry that his best friend is trying to “hook up” with his little sister. Worse, Elgin is responsible for repaying the dealer for the stolen merchandise.

Fortunately for everyone (except perhaps the audience), a dance contest called the Big Bounce is about to be held. First prize is $50,000. David and Elgin both want to win it, but neither of them wants to work together. They assemble new, individual crews to compete. At the contest, they run into their mutual arch-rivals – a couple of white guys who previously beat them by stealing their own moves. Gee, what do you think will happen next?

You Got Served is, to quote Simon Cowell, absolutely dreadful. For starters, the members of B2K seem to be graduates of the Mariah Carey School of Acting; they have zero presence on screen. In fact, aside from the dance sequences, they seem awkward in front of the camera. Then there’s the screenplay, which tosses in every urban cliché imaginable. Consider such sparkling lines of dialogue as: “Check out my girl Toya. She’s da bomb!” And if I had a dime for every time someone in this movie was accused of “trippin’”, I’d be a rich man. Many other films have successfully incorporated urban lingo into their screenplays. Just think of Boyz N the Hood, Save the Last Dance or the Barbershop pictures. The difference is that those movies all had stories and they were about characters. In the case of You Got Served, the lingo is used more as a shortcut than anything else. For example, rather than exploring the broken friendship between Elgin and David in depth, the script just labels Elgin as somebody who is trippin’. This is screenwriting at its laziest.

While I’m at it, let me also say that I got tired of watching the people in this movie engage in their little crew rituals. Almost every scene in the film either begins or ends with the guys doing hi-fives or giving each other that little shoulder bump that some males do in lieu of hugging. If you took out all the shots of people slapping hands and bumping shoulders, You Got Served would be a full twenty minutes shorter.

Perhaps the biggest flaw is that the movie is dramatically inept. Remember the drug dealer who was threatening Elgin? Toward the end of the film, one character announces that the situation has been “taken care of.” We’re never told how it was taken care of, nor did we ever get to see it. This subplot is built up so that it seems important, but when it becomes inconvenient, the movie just scraps it altogether. If writer-director Christopher Stokes didn’t want to resolve the issue, he never should have brought it up in the first place.

Then there’s the predictable finale. We are told (again, without being shown) that one of the minor characters has been killed by gunfire. This death is supposed to be the thing that makes David and Elgin realize how stupid their feud is. It is supposed to be the thing that makes everyone in the crew band together to win the Big Bounce. They must put aside all differences in order to honor their friend. The problem is that the character who dies gets such little screen time that we barely know him, and therefore we don’t care if he’s dead or not. If we’d had even the slightest investment in this character, his death might have had an impact. But he’s barely even on screen, so his demise means nothing. Again, it’s lazy writing – a blatant manipulation to force the plot to move forward.

The only thing worthwhile about You Got Served is the dancing, which is admittedly pretty good. It’s not good enough to save the movie, though. During the Big Bounce, the MTV personality known as La La appears as herself. Her function is to look directly into the camera and tells us what is going on, despite the fact that we can see for ourselves. Again, this is dramatic ineptitude.

Now that I think about it, one thing is perfectly clear: the people who made this movie are the ones who are trippin’.

( out of four)


You Got Served is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and sexual references. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.

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