Upright Citizen Brigade founding members Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation, Saturday Night Live), Matt Besser (Junebug), and Matt Walsh (Veep) reunite for this absurd look at dance movies. The film tells the story of Cocolonia (Megan Heyn), a spoiled rich girl with dreams of becoming a Step-Up style street dancer. She quickly meets a crew of dancers lead by Asteroid (Hal Rudnick) and Funky Bunch (Michael Daniel Cassidy). Along with the rest of the crew, they teach Cocolonia how to break away from her oppressive upbringing and embrace her inner street dancer.
As far as parodies go, I would classify Freak Dance as just above a spoof. A spoof is a style of comedy which derives all of its humor from allusions to specific films, which it aims to make fun of. Freak Dance on the other hand does attempt to be more original in its comedy, spoofing clichés present across the genre without being weighed down by specific references. It’s a slight difference and unfortunately doesn’t save the film; just makes it slightly more tolerable than full on spoofs like Meet the Spartans, Epic Movie, and Dance Flick. As insane as Freak Dance is, it is at least watchable and fun throughout. There is some truly clever and original comedy at work here – it just tends to get taken to a ridiculous extreme. One example is Funky Bunch telling Cocolonia that the secret of dance is being able to butcher a pig, after which the two engage in a Ghost like scene where he helps guide her hands through the act of butchering a pig. It’s unique.
The definite high point to the film is Amy Poehler. Unfortunately, the SNL alum only has a few scenes as Cocolonia’s up-tight, misguided mother, but she leaves the audience wanting much much more, and it’s a real shame that the filmmakers couldn’t strike a better balance between Cocolonia’s home life and her dancing aspirations.
Also, the film is a musical. Not in the sense that all dance movies are set to music for dancing purposes; it’s a proper sing your heart out musical. And the sheer volume of songs present in Freak Dance is impressive, while the songs themselves are not. One good song in the mix comes when two of the dance crew members go to find Cocolonia at her house. Her parents are throwing a dinner party with a lot of other rich people who are discussing the detrimental effects of dancing on society. So, in order to negate the anti-dance propaganda, the dancers sing a song about the negative effects of marijuana. As far as an argumentative strategy goes, it’s a bit of a stretch, but one has to admire the absurdity and irony of the scene. Plus, the song is one of the better written pieces in the film.
Cocolonia and her new dance crew must compete for prize money to save their studio against a rival dance crew led by the effeminate and menacing Dazzle (Drew Droege); conquering all styles of dance, including the dreaded Freak Dance (the most sexual and dangerous dance in the world).
Special features on the DVD include audio commentary from co-directors Matt Besser and Neil Mahoney, deleted and extended scenes, and a feature on the dangers of freak dancing.
Available on DVD from Image Entertainment on July 10