Prattle Fatigue: How She Move?s dancing is overshadowed by its platitudes.

Sign up for our free newsletter

Pity the troubled teenager who can’t shake her thang. Because if films such as How She Move are any indication, it doesn’t matter if you’re smart or hardworking or as clean as the marbled floors of that school you can’t afford—the surest way to overcome adversity is to dance your ass off. Of course, if your specific need is to achieve a dream (You Got Served) and not, say, work through emotional issues (Save the Last Dance), it helps if there’s a big contest with a cash prize. So How She Move’s Raya (compelling newcomer Rutina Wesley, the sole bright spot) got lucky that way. Raya had amassed an education fund, going to a private high school with the goal of becoming a doctor. But her sister was a druggie, and treatment not only ate up the money set aside for Raya, she ended up OD’ing anyway. Raya’s forced to go back to her old school, where classmates such as Michelle (Tré Armstrong) now think she’s a snob. When Michelle gets in her face, a battle of wits ensues—“wits,” of course, really meaning how well each can step. The dance-off ends in a scuffle, and that leads to a resolution that writer Annmarie Morais might have borrowed from Saved by the Bell: Because Raya is so smart and Michelle is so flunking out, Raya now has to tutor her enemy. The girls’ eyes roll along with yours, but when they start talking about Raya’s problems and Michelle suggests she join a step team and compete, well, maybe the two are destined to be friends after all. How She Move, directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid, writer-director of the godawful 2004 gay-themed comedy Touch of Pink, is as lazy about its good intentions as most of the other recent dance dramas that may vaguely come to mind. Along with the obvious message about believing in yourself, the movie is anti-drug and pro-work (“You know I’m too pretty for minimum wage!” Raya’s love interest, played by the admittedly pretty Dwain Murphy, tells a friend), wedging in lessons about family and not rushing to judgment. But the story never finds its groove, with underdeveloped characters and relationships and an arc that doesn’t exactly surprise. Worse, the dancing, though athletic, isn’t always that impressive, nearly ensuring that a better title would have been How She Tank.