What I’m about to write isn’t a recommendation of the new parody film “Dance Flick,” but more of a gentle warning that what the Wayans Brothers are serving up here isn’t nearly as wrist-slittingly disgraceful as expected. We’re still miles away from the bellylaugh miracles of the golden “Airplane!” and “Naked Gun” era, but “Dance Flick” has an appealing concentration on zany that’s eluded fellow yuksters such as Friedman/Seltzer and even David Zucker in recent years. Again, this is not a recommendation. More a blazing “all clear” signal flare to those partial to a little brainless comedy on occasion.
Joining the never-ending stream of Wayans siblings into the spotlight is Damien Dante, who takes a director slot on “Dance Flick” while the rest of his family eats up the writing, co-starring, and producing credits. Spoofing seems to be a unique family obsession, with “Dance Flick” joining the likes of “Scary Movie,” “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central,” and the classic “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” on the carousel of Wayans-approved lampoons. The targets of derision here are musicals and the once-flooded urban street dance genre, with the script primarily using “Save the Last Dance” and “Step Up” for inspiration, though plenty of bile is saved to splatter a wide range of titles.
Certainly “Dance Flick” has its fair share of dud gags, potty jokes, and disturbingly uninspired riffs (a “Black Snake Moan” parody comes immediatley to mind), but it’s astonishing to observe Wayans locate the right speed of lunacy for his picture, with leads Damon Wayans Jr. and Shoshana Bush eager to follow anywhere the script leads them. It’s a devotion to the fine art of insanity that makes “Dance Flick” somewhat endearing. This is not a consistent picture, nor a product dripping with commendable wit. It’s lowbrow and PG-13-bendingly shameless all the way, refusing to accept the lazier razzing track the diseased Friedberg/Seltzer train has been occupying. Instead, “Dance Flick” employs known screen successes to form its own cyclone of stupidity and slapstick. Wayans does a sufficient job building “Dance Flick” into a runaway boulder of a comedy, using the lampoons wisely, or at least creatively. While I’ve been conditioned to treat spoof movies as the enemy in recent years, “Dance Flick” actually finds room to have fun with itself and not just slow down to rehash every last pop culture speed bump.
There’s likable buoyancy to Damon Wayans Jr.’s lead performance -- he’s clearly inherited his father’s timing; David Alan Grier shows up in a bizarre cameo as a morbidly obese criminal known as Sugar Bear and Amy Sedaris adds uncomfortable tartness as the stern ballet teacher Ms. Cameltoe; crosshairs are aimed at “Hairspray,” “High School Musical,” and “Dreamgirls” (Sugar Bear sings “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” to food); Keenan Ivory Wayans arrives to slap Steve Harvey and his “loud-ass suits” around; and there’s plenty of urban-flavored bits that require the services of Shawn and Marlon Wayans. “Dance Flick” is a cornucopia of cartoon trimmings and raunchy escapades, and I have to be honest here: it did make me laugh. Not a lot, but just enough.
At its worst, “Dance Flick” incites a few groans and uncomfortable silences. At its best, it’s an energetic, slaphappy comedy with a cheerful attitude. I mean, come on: it’s a scant 75 minutes long, contains a well-deserved swipe at the goofiness that is the “Twilight” saga, and features a beatboxing vagina. If that doesn’t marginally entertain you, nothing will.