DVD Review: Breaking Brooklyn (2017)

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Encouraging his tap students to stay together, Miles Bryant (Louis Gossett Jr.) gives them an important lesson right off the bat in Breaking Brooklyn.

"Let’s sound like one family," he tells them, moments before he sees the face of homeless, twelve-year-old aspiring dancer, Aaron Davis (Colin Critchley) pressed up against the glass in order to better observe the class.

Intrigued by the boy's obvious passion for dance and perhaps seeing a little bit of himself in the young man  after his father is arrested and the car he lives in is towed away the former Broadway legend takes in both Aaron and his rebellious older brother Albee (iCarly's Nathan Kress) rather than let them spend their holidays in foster care.

Discovering that Miles is on the verge of losing his own home above a beautiful old Bedford Stuy theater he purchased with his reclusive brother Greg (Vondie Curtis-Hall) who lives downstairs in a dressing room after an accident drove the two apart, Aaron decides to enter the upcoming Best of the Boroughs contest to help Miles keep a roof over their heads.

From training montages to the obligatory big show, while Breaking works in all of the main plot-points that dance picture fans (including yours truly) know by heart, Breaking Brooklyn has much more on its mind than showstopping tap.

The tale of two fractured families who attempt to form one over the course of a life-changing holiday, acclaimed choreographer Paul Becker tries to blend two distinctly different storylines together in his ambitious feature filmmaking debut, co-written with Rory Owen Delaney.

An earnest character driven work fueled by conflict, unfortunately as much as I enjoy watching newcomer Critchley dance, the film is far more fascinating when it skips past his slightly protracted storyline (that gets usurped by other things halfway through the movie) and instead focuses on the Bryant brothers.

Knowing that Brooklyn would be pretty quiet with them tiptoeing (or soft-shoeing) around one another, the pair's decades old rift is humored by their angelic voiced teenage granddaughter Faith (Madeleine Mantock), who lives with the two and routinely delivers meals down to Greg.

Nonetheless missing a far more organic plotline hiding in plain sight (which would be if Faith entered the contest rather than a kid they met days earlier), while the entire cast is excellent and it's easy to see why developing the relationship of a second pair of brothers has a nice symmetry to it, in a roughly one hundred minute movie, it just doesn't flow as naturally as it should.

Likewise, the decision to season the film with just enough grit to garner a PG-13 rating instead of either toning it down enough to attract a much wider family audience or focusing more on the authenticity of life in the streets calls far more attention to the inconsistencies in tone and dialogue than likely intended.

Roughly average but with real potential, it's still a sweetly entertaining film overall. And despite a rushed finale and rather sudden end to a big internal character conflict, thanks to some terrifically crowd-pleasing choreographic nods to Singin’ in the Rain in Aaron's first big solo dance in the theater, Brooklyn breaks just well enough to delight holiday film fans and musical lovers alike.

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