A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this film depicts a hard-knock inner-city life in Toronto, its redemptive, inspirational themes -- that no matter who you are, you can and should dare to dream -- apply to everyone. There are hints of trouble (crime, drug issues) in the neighborhood, but they're fairly subtle, and although the main character's sister dies of an overdose, it's not shown, and the only drug shown on screen is marijuana. Some angry words are exchanged, but this is the type of film where characters settle their differences in "step offs" rather than with violence. There's some language, but -- other than one use of "f--k" -- it's not excessive.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
With her sister dead of an overdose and her parents' savings depleted after trying to stop things from going that far, Raya (Rutina Wesley) must withdraw from her tony private school and return to her old Toronto neighborhood, a gritty place where drugs and drama overwhelm dreams. Both for herself and her parents, Raya wants back out asap. Her only hope is an all-important scholarship exam. But after the test, Raya's convinced she didn't make the cut. So she finds another way to achieve her dreams: step dance. The $50,000 prize at a showcase called Step Monster might be her ticket out, but first she has to convince a competitive all-male crew that she deserves a place on their team. And even when she does, she still has to decide for herself what matters most -- winning, or staying true to herself.
Is it any good?
HOW SHE MOVE is agreeable but predictable. Wesley and co-star Dwain Murphy (who plays Raya's step/love interest Bishop) make an admirable effort to rise above the formulaic script, which throws in a resistant friend/classmate for Raya (the able Tre Armstrong), the shady but two-dimensional villain who stoked Raya's sister's drug habit and happens to head a rival step crew (Clé Bennett), and a monumental grudge match. We've seen these characters and plot points before in such fare as Stomp the Yard and Save the Last Dance, and they're none the fresher here.
Nevertheless, what makes a dance movie satisfying is the ability to capture the jubilation of dance itself -- and that How She Move does. Every time steppers take the stage, the audience is transported to a world where nothing but rhythm, movement, and beat matter. There are no major stars in the film, but the cast members more than rise to the occasion. And boy, can they dance.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of dance movies. Why do so many portray dance as a way of getting in touch with your true identity? What is it about dance that taps into someone's sense of self? Families can also discuss Raya's situation. What fueled her decisions? If you were in her shoes, would you have made the same choices (and mistakes)? Why does she feel so much pressure to achieve? How is she similar to and different from characters in other urban, dance-themed movies?