One of the most instantly recognizable dance crews in New Zealand, Hip Op-eration isn’t exactly known for its grand theatricality or showstopping moves. It’s known precisely because it’s made up of retirees in their 80s and 90s. Under the tutilege of Billie Jordan, a dance instructor in a bit over her head, what might be the world’s oldest dance crew attempts to make their way to a showcase performance at the World Hip-Hop Championships in Las Vegas.
I’m probably going to sound like a bit of a Grinch for this, but Bryn Evans’ eager to please documentary Hip Hop-Eration isn’t very good. It’s not that the idea of senior citizens learning to love their aging bodies isn’t admirable. The truth is quite the opposite. Along with some all too brief personal stories from some of the members of the crew, the sentiment of the whole thing proves to be the biggest saving grace of a film desperately fumbling for anything interesting to say.
Evans’ approach is as stock and standard as a film of this sort gets, literally divided into nice, perfectly even thirds (training, fundraising, Las Vegas) without any deviation. When talking about predominantly white, elderly people performing traditionally younger, decidedly more urban dance routines, more questions are naturally raised that Evans show zero interest in answering. The goal is to make a film as close to the successful singing seniors documentary Young at Heart as possible. The results are quite boring.
Add to this a sense that – by her own admission – Billie Jordan’s motivations are rather selfish and not entirely altruistic, and you have a feel good film that sits very uneasily. Still, the dance numbers, while as low impact as one might expect, will induce some well earned smiles.
This would work far better either as a straight up profile of the dancers or as a 15 minute short. At 93 minutes, however, it’s padded in all the worst ways.
Is Hip Hop-eration opening weekend worthy?
No. Not unless you have a particularly less than picky grandparent who wants a night out at the movies.
Hip Hop-eration opens Friday, March 11, 2016 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. Check their website for more information.