In the tradition of any number of stories where a boy from the wrong side of the tracks falls for a posh girl, Step Up
follows rebellious Tyler as he's forced to work with ballet dancer Nora to create a performance that could change both of their lives forever. Naturally, as young people thrown into these sorts of situations are wont to do, they fall madly and passionately in love, overcoming all their differences.
Aimed squarely at the teenage girl market, it's not a particularly new or interesting idea, and plays out in a fairly pedestrian way. But Step Up is calculated to appeal to a certain demographic--as evidenced by the soundtrack, which features the likes of Mario, Ciara, Kelis, Chris Brown, and Sean Paul--and in that respect, it succeeds masterfully.
The fact that the film's promoters chose to set up a MySpace profile instead of an official website, and that that MySpace profile has thousands of friends all posting adoring comments by teens who've watched the movie dozens of times, confirms this. Though Step Up may not be a great work of art, as a modern updating of a classic story, with hot young things in the lead roles and plenty of exciting dancing scenes, it thoroughly achieves what it set out to do. --Sarah Dobbs
Fans of Dirty Dancing
will appreciate the moves in this tale of a sullen young thug named Tyler (Channing Tatum) who winds up doing community service at the Baltimore High School for the Performing Arts. At first he's just smirking and mopping the floors, but then Nora (Jenna Dewan), a talented dancer and choreographer, loses her partner to a fractured ankle mere weeks before the big showcase, and Tyler steps in as her partner. At first he doesn't take it too seriously but then again, he's never had a real chance in life. His best friend from the street (Damaine Radcliff) gets jealous and forces Tyler to decide which side of the tracks he thinks he belongs on. Meanwhile, romance heats up between Tyler and Nora, and there's some side business with the school's hip-hop composer (Mario) falling in love with Nora's hot friend Lucy (Drew Sidora), who is going out with an older man--a successful artist who cheats on her. As far as dramatic steps go, that's all fairly by the numbers, but the performances are strong. Tatum manages to be charismatic while playing his character like a real high school kid, that is to say, monosyllabically. The dialogue crackles and the editing is tight, while the big dance climax is, of course, a crowd-pleasing showstopper. Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under
) plays the school principal. Alyson Stoner connects with some warmth and spontaneity as Tatum's little sister, as does rapper Heavy D in a bit part as a local crime lord.