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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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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