Step Up Step Up
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Anne Fletcher
scr Duane Adler, Melissa Rosenberg
with Channing Tatum, Jenna Dewan, Rachel Griffiths, Damaine Radcliff, Mario, Drew Sidora, De'Shawn Washington, Josh Henderson, Alyson Stoner, Deirdre Lovejoy, Jamie Scott, Heavy D
release US 11.Aug.06,
UK 27.Oct.06
06/US Touchstone 1h38

What a feeling: Tatum and Dewan

tatum griffiths mario
See also:
Step Up 2 the Streets (2008) Step Up 3D (2010)
Step Up This unimaginative, by-the-numbers teen drama never says anything new as it blends dance styles and cultures in innercity Baltimore. And if that sounds familiar, it's because Adler also co-scripted the nearly identical Save the Last Dance.

Tyler (Tatum) is a troubled teen who's assigned community service at the local arts school. His muscly build, supermodel good looks and gifted hip-hop moves are quickly noticed by rich-kid dance student Nora (Dewan), who's preparing for her senior showcase. But with her partner injured, golly gee, where can she find a replacement on such short notice? The tough-but-kind principal (Griffiths) allows Tyler to work with Nora. Soon he's making friends and breathing new life in to the school. But now his homies (Radcliff and Washington) feel left behind.

The main problem here is that all of the plot points are simplistic and unrealistic. These aren't actual innercity kids--they never swear, have no interest in sex and are brimming with energy, good-looks and talent that come effortlessly, with the minimal amount of discipline or practice. Even the rehearsal montages dwell heavily on gimmicky ballet-meets-rap choreography, the corny rooftop practice space, and of course lots of lingering eye contact. But there's no real chemistry.

Fortunately, Tatum is a magnetic screen presence who holds our interest through sheer charisma. But it's hard to feel sympathy for his character when he's clearly the best dancer on the eastern seaboard, and could get any modelling job he wanted. The cast around him do what they can to inject their characters with energy and emotion, even though there's not a split second of the entire film that isn't predictable. Mario is especially engaging as a talented young musician.

Fletcher, who choreographed Halle Berry's movements in Catwoman, directs the drama blandly, riffing frequently from both Flashdance and Fame. But she injects plenty of emotional resonance into the dance sequences, which are powerfully physical. The final performance piece is simply gorgeous, no matter how improbable it is in the plot. Which is the problem: we wish we could forget the moralistic, formulaic story and just watch these kids dance.

cert PG themes, violence 11.Sep.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Step Up Donna R Carter, Wisconsin: "Couldn't get much more clichÈ than this. From the outset of the story, it was difficult to keep interested. Every scene laid out the floorplan of the one to follow. Zero chemistry between characters, despite the likeability or attractiveness of the actors themselves. Nothing new under the sun." (21.Aug.06)
© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall