out of Five
Running time: 100
Step Up is loaded with cliches but it's never less than watchable, thanks to likeable performances and some impressive dance moves.
What's it all about?
Rising star Channing Tatum plays Baltimore street kid Tyler Gage, whose latest brush with the law lands him a community service stint at the Maryland School of the Arts. When prima ballerina Nora (Jenna
Dewan) spots Tyler busting some kick-ass dance moves, she asks him to replace her injured dance partner and help her train for the all-important Senior Showcase.
Directed by acclaimed choreographer Anne Fletcher, Step Up is co-written by Duane Adler, which is a bit cheeky, considering that he's basically just rewritten his previous movie, Save The Last Dance.
That said, there's no reason why the cliches of the inspirational dance movie can't just be recycled indefinitely and Fletcher ensures that the dancing scenes are well-choreographed and exciting to watch.
Tatum gives a surprisingly sensitive performance (he's apparently been called the new Brando, although not for this movie) and turns out to be one hell of a mover to boot. As for Jenna Dewan (Take the Lead), she looks like someone cloned Denise Richards and left out the important bits, but she's a skilled dancer and there's real chemistry between her and Tatum.
The supporting cast are rather forgettable and it's hard to care about their underdeveloped sub-plots as a result. In addition, a miscast Rachel Griffiths looks uncomfortable in her role as Principal Gordon and spends her few scenes looking like she's wishing she was somewhere else.
The thing about cliches is that, when handled properly, they do work and while Fletcher handles the dance elements and the central romance well, she fails to fine tune some of the other cliches, such as Nora's relationship with her mother (Deirdre Lovejoy, from The Wire).
In short, Step Up is cliched and predictable but it's worth watching if you've never seen Save The Last Dance.