Wednesday night I was at a screening of the shoddily written and directed dance-battle flick "You Got Served." The girls around me were at the most electrifying rock concert of their lives.
When D (Omari Grandberry) and L (Marques Houston) practiced their moves, in slow motion, as a driving rain soaked their sweatpants and bare chests, the girls whooped in ecstasy. When L got jumped and beaten for the unspecified but presumably drug-related contents of his gym bag, the girls screamed in terror. When D socked L after L called his own little sister a 'ho, they screamed some more. Then there was the moment the plus-size neighborhood dealer pulled up in his hearse of an Escalade to collect the cash L owed him.
By this point, the girls were spent -- the movie was putting them through the wringer. And that was before D and L patched things up and made a run for the $50,000 prize at the big dance-off against the two white dudes and their crew from the O.C. (sorry, Orange County).
The audience's exclamatory response strongly suggests that a significant segment of the population is woefully underserved: There just aren't a lot of movies aimed at young Latina and black women. So for lasses of a certain age and musical inclination, "You Got Served" -- which stars B2K, the sexed-up teen foursome responsible for such gyrate-now-ask-questions-later hits as "Uh Huh" and "Bump Bump Bump" -- is a sweaty piece of heaven.
B2K's songs were never really as important as the exposure of their washboard stomachs, and for the most part "You Got Served" and its acting are just as flat. As of this writing, the sad news is that the group has broken up, which makes watching B2K's first picture together all the more painful, knowing it's their last.
One can see what friction there might have been between the gang. Half the movie belongs to B2K front man Grandberry, known to his squealing public as Omarion. (It's a name that conjures thoughts of pyramids and a young bride named Isis.) The other half belongs to Houston, another reliably underdressed R&B pinup. The rest of B2K -- Lil Fizz, Raz-B, and J-Boog -- have sub-supporting roles. They're backup dancers in their own film fantasy.
"You Got Served" is part soap opera and part thriller, and it has the unique characteristic of being both undeveloped and overwritten. Writer, director, and former B2K manager Chris Stokes offers a drive-by shooting, a love story, a tough grandmother, D and L's bickering, their crew's rivalry with the O.C., all that dancing, several miraculous reversals of fortune, and, at the last minute, Lil' Kim, who's as bodacious as ever.
But it's the witty dancing that keeps the stock characters, lackluster performances, and ludicrous plot from sending you into a coma. As long as rumps are shaking, the movie's exhilarating. Everything else is urban boilerplate. Of course, America's breathless 12-year-old city girls might have something to say about that.
("You Got Served": **)
Wesley Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.