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Parents' Guide to

King of the Dancehall

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Gratuitous sex, violence mar glimpse at dancehall culture.

Movie NR 2017 112 minutes
King of the Dancehall Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 18+

Based on 1 parent review

age 18+

to days world

This title has:

Great messages

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

This movie attempts to show the traditions, dancing, and seedy underbelly of Jamaican dancehall culture. There's a lot to discover: the competitions, the dance gangs, and dancehall's pervasive influence on the choreography of pop singers in the States. It's a subculture worth exploring, one with plenty of characters and potential for excitement and conflict. While some of that is explored here, the plot spoils this potential with gratuitous sex and violence and the kind of self-indulgence in which director, writer, and lead actor Nick Cannon decides in various scenes to take his shirt off and reveal his six-pack abs.

It's almost as if there's a lack of faith in the substance of King of the Dancehall, so Cannon decided to throw in stylized sex scenes and violence in case the dancing wasn't enough for everyone. And even with the dancing, the cameras never stay still long enough, and Cannon's incessant voice-overs don't stop long enough to just let the audience experience for themselves how good the dancing is. And the tropes to the story, such as the dying mother who needs money posthaste to pay for her medical bills, the beautiful woman whose father is a fire-and-brimstone preacher who doesn't like the lead character's sinful ways, and the outsider who can't dance at first but then suddenly excels, are clichés that clash with the moments when the movie works best. Those moments are when dancehall -- and Jamaica, period -- are given some space to speak in its patois (with very helpful English subtitles), its dancers are given the space to perform, and the scenery of Jamaica itself is allowed to shine. Unfortunately, these moments get overwhelmed by everything else.

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