Step Up, as is evident from the title, is about a pair of dancers from two different worlds who find both success and romance when joined in a mixture of ballet and hip hop. The audience doesn't benefit nearly as much, although does not suffer nearly as much as one would expect. The movie is as cliché as all dance movies are, but subsequently is just as harmless.
The movie stars Channing Tatum as the thuggish Tyler, an Eminem-esque punk who gets kicks and cash from stealing cars and robbing places along with his two buddies. He gets into trouble, however, when he trashes the theater of an elite dance and music high school (or is it college? I couldn't quite tell) and is forced to do community service by serving as a janitor there. It is there that he meets Nora, a prissy dancer who has the chance to make it big - except her dance partner is conveniently injured. In comes Tyler, who is probably a much better dancer than her, although his unpolished and uneducated hip hop ways clash with her style. Still, the two find a common ground and grow closer, but various, minor obstacles stand in their way as one would expect of a romantic teen drama such as this.
Tatum is actually quite a good protagonist, even if his character is an idiot. He does so much stupid stuff in the beginning that you really do begin to root for him to pull his life out of the gutter, and on top of that he is a pretty good dancer to the point where even guys can respect his methods. The acting is second string to the dancing and music, however, but the movie also pulls this element off quite well. The dance sequences are well done, especially the climactic finale, and the music isn't half bad either.
The movie is everything one would expect from a movie such as this. It's Romeo and Juliet without the tragedy, although class crossover really doesn't play too much of a factor. It's a dance movie and a high school romance movie mixed into one: the characters are going to hate each other at first, fall in love, split up and eventually end up together - at least until they go to college and realize their love is not real (but that last part isn't included in the movie). The dancing follows the same path: things start out shaky, then get into a rhythm, get sidetracked by some problems, and eventually work themselves out in one big sequence at the end. If you don't mind predictability, then you can enjoy Step Up. If not, step away from the video shelf.
Step Up isn't ambitious, but it knows what it is and makes the best of it. The film works best as a simple teen romantic drama with dance sequences, and if that's all you expect, you will be entertained.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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