Footloose and Logic Free, by David Bax
In the opening scene of Duane Adler’s Make Your Move, a young man plants himself on a corner in New Orleans’ French Quarter, lays down a piece of wood, places his hat out hopefully and begins to tap dance. So, you’re thinking, this is the story of a down-on-his-luck striver with a soaring heart. Except, almost immediately, a tour bus pulls up and a group of happy tourists surrounds our protagonist, Donny (Derek Hough), cheering him on. Wait a second, you might now be thinking. Where was this bus going? Did the driver intentionally take them here just to see someone dance for spare change? Where the hell is the tour guide? And, that quickly, Adler has lost his grip on logic. The entire rest of the film takes place in a world so incomprehensible that it’s impossible for an audience to even get its footing and figure out what is going on.
Donny is a parolee who’s just trying to keep clean for another six months before he’s free. But his parole officer (Dan Lauria) is intent on hassling him until he finds a reason to send him back to jail. We know this is the case because it’s stated outright in conversation between the two. Fed up with his lack of options, he skips the state and goes to Brooklyn to meet up with his foster brother, Nick (Wesley Jonathan), who has opened an illegal, underground nightclub called Static in a warehouse where, five nights a week, people from all over the city come to watch other people put on elaborate, choreographed dances. You know the type of club I’m talking about. That’s when he meets Aya, played by Korean pop star BoA (pronounced “Bank of America”) whose older brother Kaz (Will Yun Lee) used to co-own Static but left to partner with an investment banker to open a rival dance-performance club called Oto. This is just the backstory.
Maybe I’m out of the loop. Maybe there really is a whole subculture out there where people have car chases and tense, gunpoint standoffs over who has the best club where people watch other people dance. But I have trouble buying it. I don’t frequent the hottest nightclubs but I’ve never imagined them being the focal point of a community of young people wearing tank tops, banging timpani and doing synchronized stomps to awful dubstep music.
Unlike other, superior dance movies like Save the Last Dance (which Adler wrote), Make Your Move doesn’t give any explanation for its preponderance of dancing. It’s like a bad science fiction story that presents a crazy version of the future without providing any sense of how things got to be this way. In fact, it might make more sense if this was indeed a story about an alien race similar to ours except that they communicate primarily through dance. At first, Donny and Aya dance-flirt but then they are apart and Aya does a sad dance by herself but then they get back together and they have dance-sex (much more PG-13 friendly than actual sex). It’s no real shock when we find out that the reason Donny is on parole is that he got caught stealing while dancing (seriously).
Adler may not respect plausibility but he at least respects the dances themselves enough to present them coherently. We are allowed to appreciate the physicality and choreography that went into every one of the seemingly endless supply of dance sequences. It’s fitting that this movie would only make sense when people are dancing and not talking.
Unfortunately, tradition dictates that we have a plot. This one climaxes in the confounding manner it has established for itself. Everyone’s phones start dinging at once like it’s an episode of Gossip Girl when they receive a mass email. It’s as if they have their iPhone configurations set to “Plot Point Push Notifications.” Donny’s novel plan, it turns out, is to make peace between the two warring dance clubs by putting on a pop-up dance club at yet a third location. Watching YouTube clips from the Step Up movies at random would probably be more enjoyable than Make Your Move. It would probably have a better plot too.