Click here to listen to the interview with Channing Tatum (7:01)
STEP UP is a surprisingly wholesome bit of fluff with an amiably charismatic cast and a script that should be cited for violating the basic tenets of solid scriptwriting. Uneven, undecided, and rife with everything except aliens from space and a natural disaster, it’s further hobbled by cliches, bouts of stale dialogue, inadvisable turns into ham-handed melodrama, and ho-hum predictability. Fortunately, it's also rife with some of the best dance sequences put on film in a long time, and a director, former dancer Anne Fletcher, who knows how to capture not just the excitement of dance, but also the sheer ecstatic joy of it.
The story is classic opposites attract. He's
Tatum, while very pretty and very stoic throughout, nonetheless has a gift for light comedy that helps elevate the material he is given to work with. The dry ironic tone he strikes while delivering a punch line shows some serious chops, even when on screen with Rachel Griffiths, who plays the schools requisite no-nonsense administrator. As for the romantic piffle he is made to mouth while
The film, while showing much in the way of mayhem committed by Tyler and company, boosting cars, partying down, and side betting on pick-up B-ball, also keeps them firmly outside thug-dom, instead, they are more like delicate delinquents, the swagger and attitude strictly a peer thing to keep them from becoming toast on the street. It's symbolic of the concept as a whole. The bar is set low, perhaps to not distract the audience from the dancing, at school and at parties, where the participants sometimes fall into tight choreography as can only happen in a movie with a group of perfect strangers on a dance floor. There are a few other highlights, including some nicely tart smart-alec kids such as Skinny and Tyler's foster sister, Camille (Alyson Stoner), the parallel romance between Nora's best pal Lucy (Drew Sidora) and Miles (Mario) a budding musician at the school who pines for her from afar while she only has eyes for a lounge-lizard singer, and a show-stopping solo by Drew just before she discovers her paramour's true nature. That bit of business parallels Nora's discovery that her boyfriend is also less than terrific, though audience members might have been able to deduce that at first sight from his complicated, overly constructed hairdo.
STEP UP isn't the must-see movie of the summer, but it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it. If you really, really must.