Most people think of break dancing as a long-gone fad, one of those pop-cultural novelties that went out with Rubik’s Cubes and frankie say shirts. For Thomas Hergenröther, however, it was an art form worth preserving, which is why he founded the Battle of the Year in 1990. The annual event is single-handedly credited with keeping the dance genre alive; every year, crews from all around the globe train like Olympic hopefuls for a chance to show off their skillz and gain the respect of their intercontinental peers.
No one would claim that big-picture context is the strong point of Benson Lee’s documentary, which starts off with only the barest of B-boy history lessons. Old-school legends like Ken Swift are trotted out for rote talking-head interviews, archival clips make cameos, and graying European hipsters reminisce about their collective road-to-Damascus moment (the breaking sequence in… Flashdance?). It’s only when Planet B-Boy settles into the stories of the 2005 tournament’s hopefuls and turns into the Spellbound of bodyrockin’ that the film finds its proper ambassadorial groove. Stylistic flourishes drop as the movie simply lets the dancers do their fleet-footed, hyperathletic thing; by the time the world champions are revealed, the outcome almost doesn’t matter. Hip-hop culture has been declared the winner.