Planet B-Boy

03/19/2008 12:00 AM |

A long overdue breakdancing doc, unhampered by the wafer-thin plot devices of Breakin’ and You Got Served, Planet B-Boy’s boogaloo is more electric than a trance-fest light beam. Never before has a director of this sort of athletic showcase been so appropriately overconfident: Benson Lee is oblivious to the notion of his audience ever tiring of 101 head-spinning, torso-contorting, back-flipping minutes. Even his occasional moments of desperation — staging solo dance sequences in front of the Arc de Triomphe and annoying passers-by, for instance — never detract from the envy-inducing fluidity of the film’s South Korean, Japanese, French and Nevadan championship contenders. Particularly unforgettable is the performance by Japanese team Ichigeki, which thumps and twitches while prostrate to the tune of two discordant turntables and a microphone.

Lee also manages to squeeze in unexpected pathos, as these impossibly agile and competitive youths, who are shown practicing for and then sparring at an annual tournament in Germany, thrive less on potential success than on emotional release. A handful of them merely seek acceptance from their understandably bewildered parents, who worry that the rarely profitable sport may turn into more than a hobby. For the audience, though, the graceful yet macho theatrics become their raison d’etre, taking on an almost tribal synchronicity.

Though the film seems, at its onset, to be humorlessly glorifying its subject, Planet B-Boy is rife with poignantly hilarious scenes. In one, the mother of the French team’s prepubescent blond member explains how her son’s passion gradually eroded away her racism; in another, one of the Korean teams, disgusted with tournament mess hall fare, sneaks kimchi into its third-rate dormitory.

Opens March 21