Step Up 2 the Streets
There's something inherently pleasurable about these simple-minded dance movies. Just be thankful this isn't called Step Up 2: Electric Boogaloo. Then you know you'd be in trouble.
Don't worry if you haven't seen the first Step Up; you won't feel lost. The dance movies these days mostly rely on the hot soundtrack and even hotter bodies flipping around. Having a coherent story is just a bonus, and while the two movies are similar in theme--kid from the streets goes to a prestigious arts academy--and the original's Channing Tatum makes a cameo to tie it all together, the two films can stand alone as they are. In this case, the kid is a 16-year-old orphan named Andie (Briana Evigan), who grew up in the same Baltimore neighborhood as Tatum's Tyler. She's a fierce dancer whose "crew" is the reigning champ in street dancing. But Andie also gets into trouble a lot and as an ultimatum from her guardian, she is forced to attend the Maryland School of the Arts or be shipped away. Soon fish-out-of-water Andie ends up meeting other MSA students who dare to be different and who want to break away from the snooty confines of the school--including resident hottie Chase (Robert Hoffman)--and so, they form their own crew to compete on the streets. In the rain, no less.
Although it's hard to say if there is going to a breakout star such as Channing Tatum, Step Up 2's cast of mostly unknown actors/dancers still makes the film more visceral. Evigan (daughter to TV star Greg Evigan) is a fresh face, with a refreshingly normal-looking body, especially for a dancer, and a raspy Kathleen Turner voice. While she naturally handles the shimmies and shakes with aplomb, she's also fairly convincing in the more dramatic moments, as her Andie is torn between her street crew and her new friends at MSA. Hoffman (She's the Man) also does a fine job as Chase, playing him with an easygoing charm and killer smile. Still, the two of them unfortunately don't create the same kind of heat Tatum and Jenna Dewan did in the original Step Up, and the sequel suffers from it a bit. Then there's the crew of MSA misfits, all just about as different looking as you can get but who can all MOVE like it's nobody's business, including the nerdy Moose (Adam G. Sevani) and hip-hopping Japanese exchange student Jenny (Mari Koda)--and a guy with bad teeth (LaJon Dantzler)! There's also R&B recording star Cassie Ventura making her film debut as Chase's ex-girlfriend, Sophie, a singer/actor/dancer who seems MSA old-school but kicks it to the streets when it counts. Thank goodness.
But of course, Step Up 2 all boils down to the dance sequences, montages, and the final showdown on the rain-drenched streets. If those don't work, then the movie is going to fall flat on its face. Luckily, USC School of Cinematic Arts graduate Jon Chu, making his directorial debut with Step Up 2, shows off some of those skills he learned in school. The choreographed set pieces are done well, culminating with the MSA crew showing off their stuff as the rain pours down on them. The dancing in Step Up 2 isn't necessarily groundbreaking, but still, for those of us who only wish we could move like that, it's fun to watch. Of course, having a rap-pounding soundtrack--which includes tracks from T-Pain, Missy Elliott, Flo Rida, Cassie, Kevin Michael featuring Wyclef, and more--helps as well. All these elements make Step Up 2 a worthy sequel--and its soundtrack a worthy download on iTunes.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 1/2 stars.