Breaking Through

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Breaking Through Movie Poster Image
Edgy dance drama explores pitfalls of seeking Internet fame.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Do what you love, but not at the expense of who you are. If moving up means forgetting those who mean a lot to you and changing yourself to fit a different persona, that's not a good thing. Also stresses the importance of strong friendships and family ties, as well as the power of expressing yourself through your art.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Casey is smart and ambitious and has caring friends who don't abandon her even when she's making self-absorbed decisions. J.J. tries to confront Casey with the truth about how her search for fame is changing her. Casey's mom works hard. Casey eventually realizes how to distinguish between her desire for fame and her desire to be a respected dancer/choreographer.

Violence

A fist fight between a girl's jealous boyfriend and her older friend -- pushing and shoving, and the two have to be pulled apart by others. Suggested suicide attempt (pills).

Sex

Kisses, flirting, and one scene in which a scantily dressed girl dances in front of a party full of people. A teen couple kisses his bedroom; it's clear he has a hidden camera trained on the bed. Although the sex scene isn't shown, it's implied when it's clear the video was uploaded and shared. Female characters occasionally wear revealing outfits (crop tops, short shorts, etc.). In one scene, Casey changes; you can see her bare shoulders and the top of her back.

Language

Occasional strong language includes "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "ass," and more.

Consumerism

YouTube is heavily featured and discussed in the movie; the entire premise is that certain dance crews become "Internet celebrities" once their YouTube channels "break through." Apple products are also featured (iPhone, MacBook), as are Range Rover, Mercedes, Converse, and Google.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink at a party. A girl is so "wasted" that she throws up. A girl is found with a bottle of pills, presumably in a suicide attempt.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Breaking Through is a dance film about a young woman hoping to become a YouTube celebrity. Occasional strong language includes "s--t," "a--hole," and "bitch"; there's also some teen sexuality and substance use: A high schooler's boyfriend secretly films them having sex after he's gotten her drunk; the act happens off screen but is shared online. Two guys get into a fight at a party, and the girl who was filmed deals with being ridiculed for the sex tape and is later found with a bottle of pills (off camera; she's ultimately OK). YouTube is prominently featured, but otherwise the product placement is limited to electronics (Apple) and cars (Range Rover). Families who watch will be able to discuss the popularity of YouTube stars and their impact on talented but undiscovered people who are looking for a big break. The storyline also provides opportunities for parents to talk about the consequences of consuming alcohol/things others give them.

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What's the story?

BREAKING THROUGH is the story of Casey Wright (Sophia Aguiar), an aspiring dancer-choreographer who dreams of becoming a YouTube star. Casey and her faithful crew -- neighbors J.J. (Jordan Rodrigues) and his step-sister, Tara (Marissa Hart); Michelle (Taeko McCarroll); and Drew (Robert Roldan) -- record themselves dancing in hopes of generating a viral video that will launch them into Internet stardom. But when young talent manager Quinn (Jay Ellis) discovers Casey's YouTube channel and approaches her about an opportunity to be backed by an investor he knows, it becomes clear his intentions are for her alone. Once Casey drops her crew to rebrand as a solo act, her friends are understanding -- but when she stops being there for them altogether, they start to worry that she's too fame-hungry to stay the Casey they know and love.

Is it any good?

Although the story is fairly predictable, this hip-hop coming-of-age tale offers a decent mix of dance sequences and a plot about the ephemeral nature of Internet celebrity. Aguiar, a former Britney Spears backup dancer, is believably talented (if not necessarily charismatic) enough to play a young woman who's not just hoping for her big break on YouTube but actively pursuing it. Her crew features real dancers (So You Think You Can Dance devotees will recognize alum Roldan, and Rodrigues -- of Australia's Dance Academy and ABC Family's The Fosters fame -- is particularly well cast as Casey's best friend, neighbor, and possible love interest). Rounding out the crew are Heart, a contortionist and dancer, as the youngest (and most naive) member of the crew, and McCarroll, a former America's Best Dance Crew contestant, as a senior hoping to get into Berkeley on a music scholarship.

These may not be household names, but that's not a big deal, considering that none of the original Step Up dance/actors were either, and Breaking Through's director penned one of those films. What is a big deal is that Casey isn't that appealing except when she's dancing. Not that characters always need not to be likable, but it goes a long way in an underdog story like this for the audience to feel a connection to her. Still, the dance sequences are plentiful and occasionally include cameos from YouTube dance sensations like French brothers Les Twins and Asian-American hip-hop crew Poreotics. Have no clue who anyone is? Even those who won't recognize anyone in the movie will still find Casey's journey toward stardom and back to her friends both familiar and heartwarming. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the popularity of movies about the phenomenon of Internet stardom. How does Breaking Through depict the dream versus reality of becoming a YouTube celebrity? Do you think it makes the dream seem attainable? Is it OK for kids to start their own YouTube channels?

  • What role does online bullying play in the film? What can teens do if they encounter cyberbullying in real life?

  • Talk about how the movie portrays teen drinking. What are the real-life dangers and consequences of drinking?

  • How does Casey change throughout the movie? What's the difference between blind ambition and a healthy drive for a better life/career/etc.?

  • Does the movie make you curious about YouTube dance sensations? If you're already familiar, who are some of the best dance crews to follow?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love dance and YouTube

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