Director David LaChapelle (widely known for his music videos) makes his feature debut with "Rize", a visually stellar documentary feature that chronicles the rise of "krumping" and "clowning", two similar, but different forms of dance that are incredibly aggressive and spirited. The documentary starts off explaining to the audience that none of the footage has been speeded up, and while that may sound like a boast, once viewers see the controlled chaos of the dances that are shown in the film, the disclaimer is certainly more understandable.
The craze started with Tommy the Clown, a kid's party entertainer who, in 1992 after the Los Angeles riots, managed to add dance moves to his performances. Soon enough, a phenomenon sprung out of his efforts, and whole teams of clowns started to entertain local audiences in Los Angeles. These "clowns" go the whole nine yards, complete with detailed face painting and more. "Krumping", which is a similarly aggressive style of dancing (part of the film is spent explaining the differences between the two groups) that split off from "clowning". Amazingly, the dances seem to be, as I mentioned above, controlled chaos. Despite the rapid-fire movements of the dancers, they seem to have control over the chaos of their movements, which show off their own individual style and feeling.
LaChapelle spends part of the time visiting with the dancers, but the movie seems to want to be more of a visual document (some of the film looks like a music video, which is not surprising, given LaChapelle's background) of this dance movement than an exploration of it. We do get to see the home environment of some of the people involved, but the majority of the film is spent following the dance-offs and a major competition in front of a large audience. We also learn about how the dance movement has been an outlet for many local kids, provided them with a way to express themselves artistically and has kept them out of trouble.
Overall, "Rize" adds some background information, but concentrates a good deal on the energetic dance sequences. As a result, the movie is interesting and effective up until a point - even at 85 minutes, "Rize" starts to feel a little repetitive by the time it's gotten to the last quarter of the film. Still, the movie is a mostly promising feature debut for LaChapelle.
VIDEO: "Rize" is presented in 1.33:1 full-frame, which is apparently the film's original aspect ratio. Lion's Gate offers an excellent presentation of the film, as the picture appeared mostly sharp and well-defined, with only a few moments here-and-there that looked soft (mainly some dimly-lit/natural light sequences.)
Some minor grain was visible, although I'm guessing that this is an intentional element of the film's cinematography. No edge enhancement, flaws with the elements used or artifacts were spotted. Colors were rich, bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: "Rize" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and sounds perfectly fine. Although stretches of the film are front-heavy and dialogue-driven, once the music comes in, it's presented in very enveloping fashion, along with strong bass. Dialogue remains crisp and clear throughout.
EXTRAS: A commentary from director David LaChapelle is available, as well as an intro to the movie from LaChapelle and the film's stars. We also get a featurette with LaChapelle and the film's cinematographer, dancer interviews, a look at the Tribeca Film Festival Q & A for the movie, deleted/extended scenes, photo gallery, trailers and more.
Final Thoughts: "Rize" is a vibrant, visually striking look at dancers who are able to pull off physically amazing moves. I wish it had offered a little more insight about the dance movement and the people involved, but "Rize" is otherwise an uplifting and entertaining effort. Lion's Gate offers a fine DVD, with excellent audio/video quality and a nice helping of supplements. Recommended for those interested.
The Film B