Step Up (2006) / Drama-Romance

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language, brief violence, and innuendo
Running Time: 98 min.

Cast: Channing Tatum, Jenna Dewan, Damaine Radcliff, Rachel Griffiths, Mario, De"Shawn Washington, Drew Sidora, Josh Henderson, Tim Lacatena, Alyson Stoner, Heavy D, Dierdre Lovejoy
Director: Anne Fletcher
Screenplay: Duane Adler, Melissa Rosenberg
Review published August 15, 2006

I do concede that Step Up has a clever title because it is about dancers who are working on their steps, and both have to "step up" their professional and personal lives to succeed.  However, given the wooden performances, manipulative plotting, and lack of original thought, I think if you said the title backwards, it would actually be more appropriate.

Step Up is set in Baltimore, Maryland, where a young hoodlum named Tyler Gage (Tatum, Supercross) spends his time in the inner city streets doing what many do there: party, cause trouble, and pull off illegal jobs for some spending money in his pocket.  After Tyler is caught for breaking into and vandalizing a prestigious school for the arts, he is subjected to 200 hours of community service, having to spend his days working as a janitor in the same school he trashed. 

Jenna Dewan (Tamara, Take the Lead) plays Nora, one of the burgeoning star dancers in the school, just weeks before her big senior showcase.  When her boyfriend/rehearsal partner is injured, she has trouble finding a suitable replacement -- that is, until Tyler volunteers to step in.  However, Tyler's moves are all street, while Nora's are all ballet, so when the two forms collide, one has to budge -- or perhaps they can co-exist, if the dancers can merge classical with downtown.

Step Up is a strictly formula dance film, akin to other populist entries like Breakin', Save the Last Dance, Dance with Me, and Dirty DancingThere's nothing really new that it brings to the table in terms of fresh ideas, mostly existing as a means to sell soundtracks.  Given the good selection of new music by popular artists, I suspect the soundtrack will be a hit, even if the movie they are in is predictable to the point of being quite boring to anyone that has ever seen a dance movie before.

The only other aspect of the film that merits any interest is, of course, the hot dancing, and perhaps to a lesser extent, the hotness of the dancers themselves.  Tatum and Dewan don't exactly light up the screen, and also don't display irresistible chemistry, but they do perform their own dance moves with flair, and given what little they had to work with in terms of quality screenwriting, they do the best they can in the acting department.  Duane Adler, who wrote the aforementioned Save the Last Dance, does little but regurgitate the main themes and of that film (sans interracial romance), and given that its predecessor wasn't that great of a movie, it's not much of a surprise that Step Up fails as well.

Step Up is full of so many clichés, it's the kind of movie that seasoned moviegoers will have to play "Guess the Rip-off" to keep themselves entertained.  Sure, the music and dancing are what get people in the seats, but it's just not worth having to sit through all of the by-the-numbers plotting and cookie-cutter characterizations for the final five minutes of hot performance.  Like a choreographed dance piece, this one goes through all of the steps, but every move it has, we've seen before performed by other, better dancers.  My recommendation, if you absolutely must see it, is to wait for video, where your thumb can bust a move of its own pressing the fast-forward button whenever the characters' lips start moving.

Qwipster's rating:

©2006 Vince Leo