Step Up belongs to that rare teen movie craze of beautiful people dancing together for no other reason than to look pretty together. Seriously, I tried to find a reason for this movie existing and all I came up with is, Channing Tatum isn’t bad to look at and neither is Jenna Dewan, our respective leads. For those unfamiliar with the franchise, allow me to catch you up to speed in about 15 words. Step Up is about a hood (Tatum) who dances and falls in love with a prep (Dewan).
Sounds like a dance movie, right? Well, you’d be wrong. Step Up takes itself far too seriously to be a dance movie and sadly, features too little dancing to qualify as a dance movie. Instead, it tries to be a social issue movie, as it half-heartedly tackles Tyler’s foster-home and life on the streets. It attempts to be a story about the crushing oppression of growing up rich, but misunderstood. It doesn’t really commit to either of these B-plots, but it features them just enough to be more distracting and whining than an already angst-y teen film needs to be.
Although the plot is both far-fetched and underdeveloped, Step Up does have one saving grace. While the dance sequences are too few and far-between to call Step Up a dance movie, it features some stunning choreography and impressive footwork from Tatum and Dewan. The two are magnetic together, even while they stumble through clunky dialogue and meandering exposition. Still, Tatum’s acting skills are, at best, subpar and Jenna Dewan doesn’t fare much better. By the time the pivotal dance sequence at the end of the film comes around, you’re praying that they’ll both just shut up and dance.
In the end, the main issue with the film is that it tries to be too much and not enough at the same time. I knew when I saw that Step Up was penned by the same scribe who brought us Save the Last Dance that the movie was bound to explore some almost offensively oversimplified urban issues. I knew we were destined for some wrong-side-of-the-tracks romance. I was willing to forgive all of these things if Step Up could at least deliver on the dancing front. While the dance sequences are impressive, sadly, Step Up features too much story and not enough dancing. Although I can’t believe I’m saying this, as the Step Up franchise goes on, they know what their audience is looking for and the sub-plots and melodrama stops to make way for intricately choreographed musical numbers. If you’re looking for dance, you’re better off with one of the later entries in the Step Up series. If you’re looking for half-baked moral lessons and maudlin romance, then Step Up is your ticket.
Step Up is a catalogue release from Buena Visit Home Entertainment. Step Up will be released on blu-ray July 3, 2012. Along with a high-def version of the movie, the blu-ray boasts deleted scenes, bloopers, music videos, as well as a featurette on the dancing in the movie and audio commentary by the director and stars.