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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Battle of the Year

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Steve Terada, Chris Brown and Anis Cherufa star in a scene from the movie "Battle of the Year."
In 2007, director Benson Lee countered the widespread but erroneous impression that break dancing (aka b-boying) was a thing of the past with his documentary look at its continued worldwide vibrancy, "Planet B-Boy."

Now he returns with a wide-eyed fictional variation on the same theme titled "Battle of the Year" (Screen Gems).

The street vocabulary deployed by all as this trite underdog story unfolds sets it off limits to younger moviegoers. But grown-ups will find little to bother them amid the energetic precision exercises of Lee's exploration of—and salute to—a subculture that dates back to the South Bronx of the 1970s.

Hip-hop mogul Dante Graham (Laz Alonso) is anxious for the American team he sponsors to win the international competition of the title, a contest in which they have consistently underperformed in recent years. So he hires Jason Blake (Josh Holloway), an old friend from his own groove-busting days, to shake things up and break the losing spell.

Blake's challenge is to put together an all-star "dream team" made up of the best dancers from across the country and, partly by drawing on his experience as a basketball coach, mold them into a cohesive unit.

Aided by Franklyn (Josh Peck), a young employee of Dante's company who becomes his assistant, and by Stacey (Caity Lotz), a choreographer Franklyn introduces into the mix, Blake works to instill notions of unity and teamwork into his ego-driven charges. Typical of the uphill struggle he faces is the acrimonious romantic rivalry that has ex-partners Rooster (singer Chris Brown) and Do Knock (Jon Cruz) trading insults and giving each other the finger at every opportunity.

Unbeknownst to the youngsters, Blake is also battling the drinking problem he developed following the tragic death of his wife and teenage son.

As scripted by Brin Hill and Chris Parker, "Battle of the Year" preaches predictable Hollywood homilies about the need for self-confidence, cooperation and hard work.

Tolerance is also extolled through the story of Lil Adonis (Richard Maguire), an openly gay b-boy who initially finds himself shunned by one of his teammates. Since his only aim is to be treated with respect as an individual and a peer, however, viewers of faith will be as supportive of Lil Adonis' cause as anyone else in the audience.

The film contains a fleeting scatological image, mature references, including to homosexuality, a few uses of profanity, considerable crude and crass language and numerous obscene gestures. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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