February 18, 2008

Movie Review: Step Up 2 - The Streets

Hmm. Is it Step Up 2: The Streets or Step Up 2 the Streets? I have seen it displayed both ways, and they both make sense. If I had to choose one, it would be the former. For one thing, it is closer to proper English, so far as titles go. Personally, I don't care for movies, or at least their titles, where they attempt to appear "hip" and "cool," trying to look more relatable to the youth of the nation. In either case, the end results are the same, a movie that is sort on story and high on dancing action.

As for my thoughts on said movie? Well, I should start by saying that my experience with this genre of film is somewhat limited. This means I have not seen Stomp the Yard, Save the Last Dance, You Got Served, Roll Bounce, or even Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. Yes, that would include the original Step Up, and most of whatever other dance movies you can think of. I have seen Take the Lead, although that seems more a part of the "inspirational teacher" genre than dance. Now, I am not completely baseless in entering the theater for this film, last month I saw How She Move, a lower budget dance flick that turned out to be quite enjoyable. It was far from a great film, but I liked how it used dancing as a means to an end and not as an end in itself. It was a little gritty and the story was not terribly deep, but it was good for what it was. Now, Step Up 2: The Streets is a completely different matter.

Essentially, Step Up 2 is a musical. That's right, a musical. The moments of dialogue and exposition are only in place to move you from one dance sequence to the next. Now, this is not a bad thing, and it is not meant to disparage musicals. That is the last thing that I would want to do, musicals are just another genre that have their ups and downs (for the record my top film from 2007 was a musical, one of two in my top ten). This would land closer to the southern end of the film quality chart, but there is no denying the fun that it certainly contains.

This is not a movie you are going to watch for plot. If you are watching it for the plot, I am sorry and hope you choose better the next time out. The only reason to watch this film, the only reason for its existence is to showcase the dancing skills of its cast. Let me tell you, those skills are considerable.

Let's get the plot out of the way right up front. Andie (Briana Evigan) is a talented dancer and member of a street dance crew (we learn this in a particularly stunning subway performance). She also happens to be orphaned and living with her deceased mother's best friend, a situation she is none to pleased with. She is constantly acting out against her guardian, staying out all night, skipping school, and the like. Fed up with her insubordination, her guardian vows to ship her off to her aunt's in Texas. This leads to Andie's final act of defiance, she runs away. It doesn't last long as she runs into the star of the first film, Tyler (Channing Tatum), who convinces her via dance-off to join his alma mater and put her skills and energy to more focused youth.

Andie's arrival at the school sets up the film's primary conflicts. The first is attempting to fit in somewhere she obviously does not belong. The second concerns her getting a crew to The Streets, an underground competition to crown the best of the best. What follows are your standard high school problems with the popular boy, his on again/off again girlfriend, and befriending the school's outcasts. Nothing special, nothing exciting, and nothing fresh.

What the plot does do is link up in pretty regular fashion, the dance sequences, which are something to behold. I have read those questioning whether or not any wires or special effects were used to achieve these physics defying moves. I come down on the side of believing they were actually done without wires. It is hard to believe that it is done naturally, but not entirely. Anyway, the dances get more and more impressive leading up to the rain soaked climax, hinted at in the trailer. What makes these sequences work so well is the way they were shot. Not only are the performers incredibly talented at what they do, but director Jon M. Chu and cinematographer Max Malkin do a fine job of providing a dynamic camera that stands back enough to let us see everything, while also intimate enough not to lose track of our characters.

Yes, the dancing is spectacular, but there is one more element needed to sell the drama. How are the acting performances? There is nothing that will win awards here, and fortunately none of it needs to. All of the actors do a fine job of playing their roles. They are all likable enough, once you get past the pretty faces, and it is easy to buy them in these roles, as thin as they are. Now, let me tell you, you may not want to get past the pretty faces. Briana Evigan has quite the adorable screen presence, and the final dance sequence? Easily one of the hottest things to grace the screen in some time.

Bottomline. Beyond all reaon, I enjoyed this movie. The plot is predictable, the acting is nothing special, but the dancing is a lot of fun and everything ties together nicely. So, if you are looking for some cinematic fun that requires little thinking, give this a spin. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.



Jessica said...

Enjoyed reading the review.

I have seen few clips of this movie and found that the film has some exceptional musical sequences and superbly choreographed dance moves.

I am going to watch this movie for sure.

Review worth to read: Step Up 2 - The Streets - a fitting sequel

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