Nagayama Kozou may be familiar to "J-Dorama" (Japanese TV Drama) fans as the director behind some of the most popular TV dramas of the 90's such as "Tokyo Love Story", "Itotsu Yane No Shita", "Long Vacation", "Lipstick" among others. "Backdancers!" is Nagayama's first movie project and it is a fairly decent one. Hirayama Aya (Tokyo Tower, Waterboys) and Hiro (AKA Shimabukuro Hiroko of the now defunct J-Pop girl group Speed) play best friends Arai Miyu and Saiki Yoshika. Tired of getting kicked out of dance clubs, these high school classmates meet up with singing idol hopeful Juri (Hasabe Yu of the J-Pop group Dream). Juri tells the two about a secret outdoor hangout where other underage dancers go to dance. As fate would have it the three girls are eventually scouted by a talent agent for the AVEX inspired record label "Booty Records" and are soon teamed up with former club hostess turned dancer Osawa Tomoe (Son Sonim) and the petite Nankura Aiko (Doukyuu Saeko) to form the singing/dance unit "Yuri and the Backdancers" (an obvious play on 90's J-Pop team Amuro Namie and the Super Monkeys). As Juri's talents grow, she is soon convinced to ditch the group and go solo, leaving Miyu, Yoshika, Tomoe and Ai to try and gain fame on their own.
I kind of wished that "Backdancers!" was made into a longer drama series rather than a movie, as the story seems a bit stripped down, and truncated as a movie. We barely get to know the individual girls outside of their atypical teen characterizations (the serious dancer, the party girl, the rebel, the nice girl). There are interesting hints at their backgrounds. Tomoe in particular is shown to already have a child and dealing with the hardships of being a teen mom but it is not really explored in greater detail.
We don't really get to know some of the other interesting characters as well like aging rocker Joji (played by the always quirky Jinnai Takanori) who is recruited to help mentor the fledgling talents or inexperienced group manager Chano Akira (Tanaka Kei) who is given the daunting task of making these girls stars.
The dance choreography provided by AVEX collaborators IZUMI, TERUYA and Ken (Da Pump) is energetic and lively but not as explosive as what has been portrayed in movies such as the recent "Stomp the Yard". The "dance off" between Backdancers! and their rivals "Super Tigers" is a definite highlight however.
While "Backdancers!" tries to be a "zero-to-hero" movie in the same vein as "Swing Girls" and "Linda Linda Linda", it doesn't quite reach the same rousing emotional impact as those movies or even the fan favorite "Nana". We never get to really care for these girls and their chase to fame. Hirayama, Hiro, Sonim and Saeko are all likable enough and easy on the eyes but as characters fall a little short.
While "Backdancers!" may not be as good as other dance dramas like "Step Up" or "Save the Last Dance", or the perennial favorite "Flashdance" (perhaps an unfair comparison), "Backdancers!" is still an enjoyable movie with cute girls and a cute story.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?