Musical, Reviews

Step Up

Step Up

Copyright © 2006 by Buena Vista Pictures

Tyler Gage (Channing Tatum), a troubled teen with his friends, brothers Mac (Damaine Radcliff) and Skinny Carter (De’Shawn Washington) break into the Maryland School of Arts and destroy the props in the school’s theatre. He is caught and accepts full responsibility for the act without giving away any of his friends’ identities. As punishment, he is sentenced to community service to be served in the same school he vandalised. Shortly, he meets Nora Clark (Jenna Dewan) who is in the middle of preparing her audition performance. When she is left without her partner, Gage offers to help her with rehearsals. Initially reluctant, she changes her mind after being impressed by his talent. Together, they learn more about each other and hope the support and love they have developed over time will lead them to a better future.

After a very profitable run in the multiplexes, ‘Save the Last Dance’ revived a sub-musical genre which had lay dormant since the 1980s via hits like ‘Fame’, ‘Flashdance’, ‘Footloose’ and ‘Dirty Dancing’; movies dedicated to the world of dance. As with all other success stories, Hollywood has its way of milking the cow dry with many variations of the tried and tested. That is why we are being bombarded with formulaic derivatives for the past decade through half-baked products ranging from ‘You Got Served’ to ‘Make It Happen’.

Only one seemed to have been unscathed from being ripped apart by critics all over and nabbed a ‘Best Actress in a Leading Role’ Oscar for its star, Natalie Portman. Oh wait, the movie was more about the ballerina’s ongoing turmoil with herself in achieving perfection and its repercussions to her sanity rather than a two hour fluff to showcase her dance agility. So I guess it does not count. We will just have to keep an open mind for that day to come. It could be this year’s latest ‘Step Up’ to do it.

Seeing as how the original has set the bar so low, I doubt there will be a tremendous shift in quality storytelling. Taking a cue from the Julia Stiles romance, the same novelty is applied to the idea of anything can be updated to appeal a generation more affluent with krumping, b-boying and twerking as the next wave of modern dances. If you can even call the latter dancing, it is certainly a step back to the art of movement (a fad hopefully will pass in time if only Ms Cyrus will give it up already and stick to what she does best instead – whatever that is).

While the combination of regal and streetwise does look improbable from a theoretical point of view, it is not as absurd as it sounds. The best parts of the movie are being attributed to the human body’s fluidity for sound and being in sync with the rhythm (no surprise there). The group’s showcase piece has to be seen to be believed. Tatum knows how to work the stage to his advantage. He may not be the best dancer but he gets the job done and you just cannot keep your eyes off of him.

Although hailed as just another pretty face with abs, Tatum has been building a steady career for himself to critical praise such as ’21 Jump Street’, ‘Haywire’, ‘Side Effects’ and ‘Magic Mike’ (his smooth moves are put to good use once again sans the clothes). Too bad, this is not of them. Like the rest of the cast, they are wasted on a wafer-thin plot which does not provide any real insight to the struggles living in a ghetto or the pressures faced in an elite school where ferocious competition is just waiting to tip you off your flawless pirouettes at any given time.

If the drama is inconsequential, at least knock it out of the park with more dancing, right? There are just too few of such scenes and impressions on any of them are barely felt. It could be a strategy for the big payoff at the end but with top-notch choreographers’ expertise in the industry not maximised to the fullest and producer Adam Shankman’s experience seemingly underused, this is the kind of hybrid you wished was not spawned in the first place.

Entirety: C+
Acting: B-
Plot: C

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, brief violence and innuendo


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