C-list r&b singer Marques Houston jumps on the money train of the modern family film with Battlefield America. In the movie, which Houston co-wrote with the its director, Chris Stokes (Houston's manager), the singer plays arrogant businessman Sean Lewis, who's sentenced to community service after a DUI lands him in front of a no-nonsense judge. Lewis has to work off his hours at a community center (run by a drop-dead gorgeous woman, natch) where a motley crew of smart-mouthed grade-school boys dream of winning the upcoming street-dance battle competition. He's to be their coach. Yes, the boys and Lewis hate each other on sight; his initial meetings with the center's director are prickly; Lewis slowly learns what's important in life; the boys learn to love him; he gets the girl/woman. It's all boilerplate, so these are not spoilers. Although it's grotesque to see pre-teens stomping in underground warehouse-battle settings, at least Battlefield America's racial politics are interesting. Those run from lamentable (some of Lewis's ribbing of his Asian charges) to subversive, as the film reflects real life by positioning Lewis's crew (largely black, with two Asian kids) as the underdog in a subculture forged by African Americans and Latinos but where blackness is all but erased, the scene now largely dominated by white and all-Asian crews. But don't fear; that's all subtextual. The film's real lesson is more acceptable to the American palate: Believe in yourself, and you'll win. Ernest Hardy
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