All Stars

All Stars


Reviewed by: David Graham

The dance movie craze shows no sign of abating with this pre-pubescent carbon copy of the StreetDance series. With a storyline as hackneyed as they come, All Stars does at least come alive in its energetic routines, the alarming youth of the titular troupe making their expertise all the more impressive. The bloated runtime, surfeit of characters and predictable sermonising do eventually wear down audience goodwill however, leaving the attempt at a spectacular finale feeling like one encore too many.

Jaden's beloved inner-city youth centre is the only place where he can secretly indulge his passion for dancing, having been banned by well-meaning parents who encourage him to focus on his studies to get into a prestigious private school. When the space is threatened with imminent destruction, the youngster teams up with crafty schoolyard geezer Ethan to put on a fundraising benefit, supported by the centre's much-loved manager Gina. Holding auditions to put together a dance crew - which might just surreptitiously bag Ethan his dream girl - Jaden is amazed at the talent of the kids around him, but Ethan doesn't exactly see much potential for them to see off their rivals. Harnessing their diverse skill-set, Jaden eventually tries to combine their various disciplines to come up with a show that might just save his community's beating heart from the bulldozers.

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Abandoning the gritty posturing of typical teen dance flicks, TV director Ben Gregor makes several canny technical choices that help All Stars stand out from the crowd. There's none of the risque sexualised undertones of the Step Up movies, and his use of vibrant, kiddie-friendly colours gives his film a winning aesthetic. His soundtrack choices are also well-balanced, with a variety of UK-centric genres like grime and rave rearing their normally edgy heads to keep energy levels running high.

His use of 3D is less impressive though - despite the intricate locations and elaborate routines, the gimmick fails to add much to the experience, coming off as a cynical cash-grubbing afterthought. He also fails to make the most of Primeval scribe Paul Gerstenberger's script, the dramatic and comedic scenes often falling flat despite the best efforts of a range of thesps such as Ashleys Jensen and Walters, although Girls Aloud's Kimberley Walsh does surprisingly well with an under-written council estate mum role and Kevin Bishop shows serious dramatic potential as Ethan's wheeler-dealer father.

It's really all about the kids, of course, with Theo Stevenson - Horrid Henry himself - working an endearing line in naff banter, while high-kicking Fleur Houdjik makes the most imaginative contributions to the team's performance as a believably bolshy martial artist. The rest of their crew feel a little superfluous though, with obviously talented child actors reduced to playing 'the fat one' or 'the posh one' just to round out the numbers.

When it's showcasing tiny body-rocker Akai Osei-Mansfield, All Stars finally comes into its own. His wild gyrations and acrobatic ability show a prodigious and unique talent on the dance-floor, who also happens to be an appealing and grounded actor. Unfortunately, Gregor's camera tricks, snazzy art direction and flashy lighting often detract from the dancing, while too many of the routines are overly similar and don't advance the plot in any way at all, despite the imagination on display during stand-out Space Invaders and paper samurai set-pieces.

All Stars is a well-intentioned addition to its genre but fails to transcend its trappings, the balance of dance and drama feeling a little off at times - there's too much of the latter for long stretches of the duration while even the former grows wearying by the climactic dance-off. It's a solid CV entry for its director and stars; families will find it a diverting experience with a positive message that should encourage kids to get involved in the various arts it depicts, but it could quite easily have been tighter, smarter and funnier.

Reviewed on: 02 May 2013
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Two kids plan to stage a dance show to save their youth club from closure.
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Director: Ben Gregor

Writer: Paul Gerstenberger

Starring: Theo Stevenson, Akai Osei-Mansfield, Ashley Jensen, Fleur Houdijk, Dominic Herman-Day

Year: 2013

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: UK


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