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Step Up 2: The Streets

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There are only two words needed to describe the teen dance movie, Step Up 2 the Streets, and those are “hot mess.” While the choreography was excellent and attractive, the mediocre plot and acting nullified any of Step Up 2’s redeeming qualities. The rated PG-13 dance movie opened on February 14, and is the sequel to MTV’s low-budget, high-grossing film Step Up, released 2006. Unlike Step Up, which was about a street dancer learning to become a classical dancer, Step Up 2 is about a bunch of classical dancers turning into street dancers. This time, however, the dancing takes place on the underground urban scene, “the Streets” and the music score is packed with hip-hop and rap from artists such as Missy Elliot, T-pain, and Flo Rida.

The main character, an indignant street dancer named Andie (Briana Evigan), is given a chance to attend prestigious Maryland School of Arts (MSA). Though she botches her audition, deus ex machina is on her side in the form of pretty boy Chase Collins (Robert Hoffman), who miraculously sways the schools’ opinion for her to attend. When her old dance crew kicks her out, Andie forms a new crew of ragtag dance outcasts from MSA to compete in the streets.

The main difference between Step Up 2 and other dance movies such as Save the Last Dance and Take the Lead is the film’s clear disdain for classical dance. Step Up 2, rather than respecting dance forms such as ballet and modern jazz, belittles them as the main character scoffs that she is not some “princess prima ballerina.”

Fans of the original Step Up may be disappointed that not a single character from the original movie carries over to the sequel, with the exception of dancer Tyler Gage (Channing Tatum), who appears in the beginning of the film for a grand total of 15 minutes.

In addition, the plot of Step Up 2 is contrived and clichéd. The dialogue is atrocious with phrases such as “the only contest she couldn’t win was the one for his heart.” Step Up 2 plays on all the archetypes of popular dance movies: the troubled girl with mother issues, the hotshot popular boy, and the disbelieving adults. Despite the majority of the film being tolerably shallow yet entertaining, the movie immediately takes a downhill spiral when it tries to inspire and carry a deep message. Step Up 2 preaches to “just be you” and “follow your dream,” but never stops ridiculing the dreams of the movie’s antagonists: the inner city kids and the ballet dancers.

The film is cast with an interesting variety of actors, ranging from passable to utterly revolting. Will Kemp is appalling as Blake Collins, the uptight director of MSA. Every line he delivers sounds forced and unnatural even when he simply spouts a list of French dance terms to give this movie its ethos. No amount of “chaînés, chassé, stag leap!” can atone for his poor performance. On the other hand, newcomer actor Adam G. Sevani steals the show and the dance floor playing the two main characters’ nerdy but lovable sidekick named Moose.

Despite its dreadful storyline and acting, Step Up 2 does earn credit for its stellar dance choreography. Choreographers Dave Scott and Jamal Sims worked to make the film’s street dancing as authentic and lyrical as possible. According to the Step Up Movies’ official Myspace page, MTV headed an online nationwide audition for backup dancers, asking fans to send in videos of themselves or their dance troupe at their best. The winning performers were given a chance to perform in the sequel’s final street dance competition scene. However, fifteen seconds of fame was inadequate to feature some of the talented, undiscovered dancers in America.

Over the past few years, MTV has churned out half a dozen dance movies including Stomp the Yard and recently How She Move, with about the same originality as Step Up 2 the Streets. The problem with Step Up 2 is that it spends too much time trying to legitimize its story and characters, rather than focusing on the actor’s dancing abilities. It would have almost been less embarrassing to watch if the movie had simply been a showcase of various performances, much like television’s “So You Think You Can Dance?” When there is only dancing on screen, the movie feels entertaining and visually appealing, but the other hour spent cultivating a shallow and overdone story makes the dance moves stumble. For future films in the dance genre, the solution to avoiding a terrible plot is simple: do not have one.





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