Oldie But Goodie: Step Up and Step Up 2: The Streets

When they announced that a fifth (yes a fifth!) Step Up movie was in the works that would pull a Fast Five - reuniting the cast from the previous four movies, well, my interest was piqued. I had never seen any of the Step Up movies and with Channing Tatum being, well, the new hotness - I thought it would be fun to delve back in time when people and movies were much simpler. I'm talking about 2006 - a time when a young Barack Obama was just a wee lad, desperate to make friends in Congress and when Pluto was still considered a planet. Maggie has come along for the ride and I'm not going to lie to you folks: I think I've got a new franchise to love!

Step Up (PG-13) - Runtime: 104 minutes
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jenna Dewan-Tatum
Director: Anne Fletcher
Writer: Duane Adler, Melissa Rosenberg

I will freely admit going into this movie that I would not like it. Which is strange because I like the whole romantic comedy genre and I do love a good fish-out-of-water story. And Step Up does a pretty good job of handling both stories. Although at times this movie seemed more like it was a mid-90s flick than a movie that came out only seven(!) years ago!

Tatum plays Tyler Gage, a teenager on the verge of living a thug life who gets caught trashing the nearby art school. He's forced to pay his dues via cleaning the literal crap these artsy fartsy students produce every day. Along the way he sees a pretty girl, Nora (played by the future Mrs. Tatum) and is roped into helping her with her big senior thesis that is the be-all, end-all of her future career. I cannot stress the importance of how big a deal the movie makes sure to let you know that Nora will live a life of failure if she doesn't get a dancing gig from this senior show. The rest of the story is all sorts of predictable - but that doesn't really matter that much in this film.

What matters is the chemistry, the characters and the sweet dancing. The two leads are fantastic - you can tell their off-screen chemistry has shown up on-screen. That's nice because this movie wouldn't work if they didn't work together. Plus the rest of the supporting cast is fun. Maggie successfully predicted Skinny dying, Tatum's best friend's younger brother. It kept being an ongoing joke for us - every time Skinny was in a scene we thought this would be the end for him (there were so, so many opportunities for that kid to bite the dust!).

The film doesn't take itself too seriously to its detriment sometimes. We're talking about Baltimore here and Tyler and his friend are on the fast track to becoming bonafide criminals and completely ruining their lives. But the movie never really felt suitably heavy during these moments of great peril or decision-making time for Tyler. Even when Skinny dies it seemed like the movie was more interested in getting back to dancing.

As for the dancing - the movie seems to avoid too much of it. I thought there would be a lot more dance-off type situations, but it's a fairly formulaic movie with the big dance routine at the end. And that was fantastic, I just wish there was more of it. The movie also has this weird mid-90s vibe to it - one of the jokes Tyler makes is about drugs - "This is your brain on drugs." which is a reference I don't think any teenager at the time would have gotten in 2006. The whole tone and look of the movie seemed to be of that era and I cannot quite figure out exactly why it felt that way, I just know that I felt it.

Not to say Step Up is a bad movie. Far from it - this is an enjoyable romantic comedy with some good dance numbers. I wouldn't say I really loved this film - but it certainly was worth seeing!

Rating: Rent It!

Step Up 2: The Streets (PG-13) - Runtime: 98 minutes
Starring: Briana Evigan, Robert Hoffman
Director: Jon M. Chu
Writer: Toni Ann Johnson, Karen Barna

I'm probably going to get blasted for this, but I think Step Up 2: The Streets is a far, far superior movie that the original Step Up. Hear me out, now! Step Up 2 just has a lot more energy, more dancing and just more passion. It doesn't try to shoehorn in a moralistic message into the movie. Instead, it's a great dance movie that isn't afraid to wear its dancing dorkiness on its sleeve.

The film follows Andie, a tom-boy who is in a dance crew in Baltimore, living the hard knock life. Her dilemma is that if she doesn't shape up, she's moving to Auntie's in Bel-Air. Wait, no, Texas. Sorry, wrong story. After a sweet dance-off with her friend, Tyler Gage (yes, Tatum makes a cameo sppearance!) she starts to wonder if she can apply to the fancy pants art school. Of course she gets in but now she's up against a wall - betraying her friends in the dance crew for a fancy school degree! Of course, she gets kicked out of her crew and forms her own to have a dance battle (yes!!!! Oh yes!!) at what's known as The Streets.

And this is where the movie goes from good to great. Andie starts to recruit all the outcasts (mainly the normal kids) at the art school to help form her new crew. I love these "assemble" type stories - Fast Five, The Avengers, Ocean's Eleven - they're all great and for some reason this angle works in Step Up 2. Now for the cast of characters - they're way more memorable than most of the cast from the original and I could honestly tell you right now who was on the crew - I think Moose is my favorite but Maggie really likes the Asian kid who also plays the Asian kid in Glee!.

Aside from the good cast and easily digestible plot, the dancing was awesome. There's way more of it this time around and it's all really good. Especially the end dance battle - it was pretty epic (although maybe a little too epic for Maggie - I think she got dance fatigue somewhere around the 10th minute of the dance-off). But I really enjoyed every minute of dancing - it was fun and you could tell the whole cast was having fun, too. There's a great scene where the art school crew has to get street cred and the video they put together is quite hilarious. Mainly because they're making fun of the thug who's the leader of Andie's old crew. Speaking of which - that dude was probably the most over-acted and way over-the-top character I've seen in a long time. And it was a good thing! It felt like the movie wasn't trying to take itself too seriously because this dude was EXTREME TO THE MAX about dancing! Seriously, if the dude put as much passion into dancing as he did say, like cancer research, I might not be missing three ribs right now (yeah I went there).

Step Up 2: The Streets, aside from having the most ridiculous title for a movie, was a, wait for it.... step up from the original! More dancing, more absurdity and just more fun, this was I think where I fell in love with the franchise. Yeah, so what? You got a problem with that???

Rating: Rent It!

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