Why 'Make Your Move' Failed in America (Hint: It’s not because of BoA)

Make Your Move feat. BoA

We’re serious. It’s not because of BoA.

Though her star is not nearly as bright as it once was, BoA could not have been expected to carry the movie on American shores, where she has had only limited success to begin with. BoA’s performance in “Make Your Move” has been panned by critics, especially her awkward delivery of English, but we felt that her acting was more than serviceable in a movie that was supposed to be more about dance and spectacle than drama. And that leads to our next point...

SM Entertainment wants to be taken seriously. That’s the problem.

SM wanted to make a serious film (with its partners) and that’s what they made, a strangely serious film. About dance. Looking at the successful “Step It Up” series as a guide, dance films are built on a certain level of camp. On a little bit of cheese. Sure, there’s drama, there are complications, but there’s also a whole lot of fun, and one excuse after another to give us ridiculous dance sequences in the name of love (or justice, or saving some community center, etc).

While not exactly joyless, when the fun and spectacle does arrive in “Make Your Move” it is too soon interrupted by the contrived story, this escalating drama between two families, with our heroes (Donny and Aya) caught in the middle. The Romeo and Juliet angle could even work, and work well, if the rest of the movie were more lighthearted, by way of memorable supporting characters that aren’t constantly scowling, or by more inventive dance sequences that truly use Brooklyn and its unique inhabitants.

SM should realize that Kpop, their industry, is fun and campy, and would have fit perfectly within the world of over-the-top dance films. But SM seems to feel embarrassed by its own success. Why?

Why Not Embrace Kpop?

We heard some f(x) in the background of a few scenes, but besides that, the movie felt determined to separate itself from Kpop. But why not embrace your medium? You have some of the biggest stars on the planet: Girls’ Generation. Exo. SHINee. Why not dance to their songs? Have them release new songs to coincide with the movie? Have Jessica as the best friend? Key as the love interest? Like we’ve said, Kpop and dance movies could fit perfectly together, and by embracing Korean music, “Make Your Move” could have taken the best of both worlds and made something surprisingly original. And maybe it could have hit a nerve among the growing American Kpop fans.

We know the mindset behind having a more American soundtrack, and behind casting an “American lead” with some recognition for American audiences. But how’d that work out for them?

BoA and Derek Hough

Making a Move in America

The filmmakers behind “Make Your Move” have made some curious decisions. BoA’s Aya is pursued by two white men (the rich villain, the poor hero), that bring up reminders of the fetishization of Asian women, an issue that is never directly addressed in the film. Donny and Aya fall for each other without much in the way of conversation. While their love is seemingly based on their shared passion for dance, Donny is infatuated with Aya even before he sees her perform. When they eat dinner together and finally have a full conversation, Donny asks questions about Aya’s heritage, wants to learn Japanese, and is trying to be sweet in a scene that really ends up being clumsy. The scene raises questions that it probably never intended to. Like: How many Asian women can relate to being pursued by white men with sincere but ultimately superficial questions about their heritage? And, more importantly to the movie, what is it that truly brings these two lovers together?

Strange issues with race don’t end there. Aya and her brother were raised Japanese but are of Korean blood, a detail that could be interesting, but is thrown away with a cryptic shrug and one line from Aya, where she says that Japan and Korea’s histories are complicated. There is history there. But there’s also history between the countries and BoA herself, who really struck fame in Japan, becoming a star and a bridge between Japan and Korea. Was Aya’s background a nod to BoA’s own history? Or did the filmmakers make her “Japanese” to, again, shed their Kpop skin?

BoA Playing Taiko Drums


Maybe it all comes down to money. Not enough money, maybe. The release was delayed for years. The marketing was scarce when the movie finally did arrive, and the theater we watched “Make Your Move” in only had it playing on one screen, for one noon showing a day. There was no one else in the theater with us. As of today, the movie has only made $125,000 at 142 theaters across the country. Not enough money to advertise, to play on significant screens, to partner with bigger producers, all signs must have pointed to failure. “Make Your Move” wasn’t released, it was dumped. And really, BoA deserves better than that. This movie, despite its flaws, deserves better than that.

It’s questionable then, why SM would even attempt such a venture if they didn’t have the resources to make it succeed. It’s even more questionable how they don’t have the resources, with all their worldwide talent.

“Make Your Move” was a failure

But it can also serve as a lesson for SM. The next time they make their move, they should go all in.


  1. While you raise some excellent points, it should be noted that the director, storyline, and main production staff are mostly separate of SM itself. Thus, it's not a movie trying to capsize on Kpop or Korean Heritage. BoA's character was initially intended to be full Japanese as the movie's focus was partially on COBU (involving Japanese tradition).

    Sm's involvement was coproducing and marketing which I feel they hardly participated in.

  2. ^ Exactly. People keep forgetting that the only reason BoA was involved in this film was NOT BECAUSE OF SM, but because the director--Duane Adler--saw her perform and wanted her to be Aya. This wasn't SM's idea, they just signed on when Duane sought out BoA. He recognized her talent, ability to dance, and wanted her to participate in an East-West fusion that ended up becoming "Make Your Move." Yes, SM co-produced the film, but BoA did not get the role because of SM Entertainment. She got the role because Duane wanted her, simple as that.

    Therefore, SM was trull

  3. If you put your name on a movie, your stamp of approval, like SM Entertainment did, they should spend the time and have the resources to make it work. They're to blame just as much as Duane Adler.

  4. I honestly think actors were good, BoA is very talented, fans and people realize she's good at what she does, I didn't know about Derek but when I do I really got impressed.. amazing dancer and actor, i really thought he and boa had something real in the movie, you can see it at first sight when you watch it,they take seriously their roles, and yep, the first thing people can think is that BoA spoiles the movie, or maybe her nacionality was not acceptable or fame was not increased at all, but honestly for me there wasn't someone better to do the role if Adler wanted to carry out an oriental concept,mixing with Kpop idol. that's a good idea, but the truth there was no money and it goes with poor scenes, and camera deffects. besides let's remember it was the first time Duane directed a movie, he was only a screenwriter, so......it comes down to inexperience by Duane and SM.

  5. First as an Asian American male ! I understand America is a mixed relationship country , but do we always have to have white and Asian relations to be a successful film. Why not just two Asian that love each other , it happens too. As if we are only good for a martial arts film or something! I have mixed cousin and they even admit its pretty said . Second I couldn't agree more , why not just acknowledge she's Korean and not Japanese , just like Ninja Assassin film. It would be nice to have a true representation of the Asian culture in a film for a change , and if you want to be an American one there are tons of Asian Americans as well . America isn't just white as me and my family learned when we came here from Asia. this film would have been better if it wasn't strongly about dance . We can do more then just dance .

    1. adding to my above post , we Asians get angry when non Asian don't recognize what Asian we are but we play dumb rolls in films were we aren't representing how we really are ! media is a confusing mess . You probably have some Americans think Boa is Japanese or something , as they would think it anyway but you get the point.

  6. In my opinion Core Contents Media entertainment company of T-ARA , did a fantastic job with Death Bell . Why cant SM do the same....SMH


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