Step Up 2 the Streets (United States, 2008)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

With Step Up 2 the Streets, the supposed-but-not-really sequel to 2006's sleeper Step Up, you get what you pay for. That is to say, there are lots of energetic dance moves, throbbing music that uses every channel of the theater's digital sound system, and a good looking girl who looks even sexier slicked down by water. In fact, all this is almost enough to make one forget about the cardboard characters, trite storyline, feeble romance, and embarrassing sermonizing about everyone getting along together. But those who venture into theaters for Step Up 2 probably won't care about those things.

On some level, I have to admit that Briana Evigan is almost reason enough to recommend this film on the basis of what she brings to the project. Not only is she fit and attractive (with or without the downpour that douses her in the final dance competition) but she can dance. And, as best I can tell, no body double is involved. Director Jon Chu provides enough full body shots with her face in view that there's little doubt those are her moves. Her co-star, Robert Hoffman, is no slouch in that department, either. It's odd, however, that two who have such great chemistry when dancing have none when not moving and grinding. This has something to do with the fact that they're better dancers than actors but even more to do with the pathetic twaddle that screenwriters Toni Ann Johnson and Karen Barna call dialogue.

Although the movie poses as a sequel to Step Up, Step Up 2 has little to do with its predecessor except the setting of a dance academy. To strengthen the weak link between the two, Channing Tatum, the star of the original, shows up for an out-of-place cameo designed to make us believe that the world of Step Up 2 is the same one as that of Step Up. It also serves to remind us that he, like the stars of this movie, is a lot better dancer than actor. It's also reminiscent of Patrick Swayze's appearance in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, another dance-themed "sequel" that had no non-marketing reason to appropriate the title of its predecessor.

Step Up 2 begins by introducing us to Andie (Evigan), a member of a tough street dance gang named the 401. When she is given an opportunity to attend the Maryland School of the Arts, she finds her interests diverging from those of her former crew and, when she misses one too many practices, the leader of the 401, Tuck (Black Thomas), kicks her out. She decides to develop a new crew, using cast-offs and oddballs at her school (each one representing a familiar cliché), including Chase (Hoffman), the popular but irreverent brother of the director. Andie's goal is to get this group ready to compete in "the Streets," the underground contest that crowns the Baltimore area's street dance gang.

There's not much more to say about Step Up 2 except that it works when the characters are dancing and it is borderline painful when they're not. Too much time is wasted attempting to give flat and lifeless characters backstories. No one really cares that Andie is in danger of being shipped off to Texas or that Chase is living in his brother's shadow. These things are irrelevant to the thrust of the movie and the fact that so much time and effort is spent pursuing them equates to fewer opportunities for dancing. Much of the average viewer's time in the theater will be spent waiting somewhat impatiently for the high-energy climax. Catnaps are an advisable way to survive some of the slow spots. Or, better yet, wait for this to be available on DVD when the fast forward button will turn Step Up 2 into something shorter and more enjoyable.

Step Up 2 the Streets (United States, 2008)

Run Time: 1:37
U.S. Release Date: 2008-02-14
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Violence, Sexual Situations)
Genre: DRAMA
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1