Step Up 2: The Streets
Film review by: Witney Seibold
The first “Step Up” (2006) was about a street-wise, out-of-control thug named Tyler Gage (Channing Tatum) who was tutored and tamed by a prim female ballet student. Likewise, the thug also taught the prim ballet student how to loosen up, and win a big dance-off at the end of the film. It’s a cliché-riddled flick which is disappointing only in that there is not enough dancing in it.
“Step Up 2: The Streets,” directed by Jon M. Chu, already tapped to direct “Step Up 3-D,” is about a female thug named Andie (Briana Evigan) who is the cousin of the Tatum character from the first. Indeed, Tatum appears in a few scenes of this film, and encourages his cute li’l cousin to attend a Maryland dance conservatory. That’s where the connections end. It’s just as cliché-riddled as its predecessor, but has a lot more dancing. It’s dumb, predictable, and way more fun than “Step Up.”
Andie is still smarting from the death of her mother, and is now living under the oppressively watchful eye of her godmother (Sonja Sohn). Her godmother is actually a decent sort, and has a really nice house, so it’s a little inexplicable when she besgins to shout at Andie for dancing in public.
In this universe, all of Maryland is secretly populated by rogue Dance Crews who randomly assemble Flash Mobs, and film themselves dancing in public places. If the cops manage to see them dancing, the dancers playfully dance away, eluding capture. The Dance Crews are clearly structured like street gangs, but since there’s no crime or killing, I don’t see why cops and godmothers would care so much. The film’s opening scene on a subway car, where Andie’s crew, the 401s, break into a masked dance number, is actually really exhilarating. The Crews’ films make their way onto the Internet, and serves as an audition reel for an All-Crew, heavily-attended, randomly-announced dance contest called The Streets.
But poor Andie’s godmother has threatened her with a trip to Texas; Andie’s just too wild. And Channing Tatum shows up to dance off with her, win, and force her into a dance academy. Will she be able to split the time between school and Crew rehearsal?
It turns out that she won’t. She misses so many rehearsals that the 401s kick her out of the Crew. Her new school chums, though (an assortment of quickly introduced archetypes) encourage her to form her own crew. She enlists the school’s golden boy Chase Collins (Robert Hoffman, and yes, the character is actually named Chase Collins, which shouldn’t be too shocking in a world with actors named Channing Tatum), who will serve as the story’s love interest. She also gets the help of the school nerd Moose (Adam G. Sevani). Moose is such a confidant and appealing character that it was upsetting to learn her was relegated to a supporting role. I kind of hoped he would become the love interest.
A small rivalry forms between the 401s and Andie’s new crew of school chums, and there are some pranks and some PG-13-rated beatings. Andie is invited to birthday parties and what not. The camaraderie between the dancers is warm and fun and far more believable than most teen dramas. The characters may have been arcehtypes, but I believed they were having a good time with one another. Predictably, the film boils down to a huge dance-off at The Streets, with the 401s and Andie’s crew being the last two Crews standing. Oh, and there’s a stupid subplot about the Golden Boy and the Golden Boy’s Brother having a stupid rivalry over The Streets.
It should be acknowledged that Dance Flicks like these do not bank on originality. Indeed, like slasher flicks and James Bond movies, their predictable banality carries a lot of their charm. So I didn’t mind that the characters were flat and the story predictable. I liked that the acting was merely competent, and not a step further. I liked that the plotting boiled down to a boilerplate. I look forward to a dance film that manages to transcend these clichés, but “Step Up 2” will serve until that film comes along.
But what made the movie really worth seeing was the dancing itself. It was abundant, energetic, elaborate, and very good. The director actually managed to keep the camera still and the editing kind of sparse for the dancing so we could actually see the raw talents of the dancers on display; he edited his dance scenes more like showcases and less like action sequences.
The film is actually very tame, and I was curious as to the PG-13 rating. Yes, there is a beating in the film, and it’s a mite brutal, but it’s not so violent, I suppose, to warrant the PG-13 rating. But then, when we get to the end of the film, Andie and her crew dance outdoors in the rain. The water pours over their young, lithe, youthful bodies, accentuating every sensual muscle curve, and every flexing buttock. The water shining and making slick every last touchable… *ahem* sorry. Is it hot in here?
Briana Evigan is a good dancer, and spends most of the film with her midriff exposed, effectively beating the midriff-exposure record established by Milla Jovovich in “Ultraviolet.”