Step Up

Step Up


Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Courtroom judges in movies are getting soft. A fortnight ago a teenager was sentenced to the gym in the frankly uninvolving Stick It and in the recent Take The Lead they doled out ballroom dancing to the disaffected brats.

Tyler (Channing Tatum at 26 is still at high school), and his homie brothers, brick shithouse Mac (Damaine Radcliff) and young Skinny (De'Shawn Washington), break into the Maryland School for the Arts and trash the "rich kids place." The cops nab Tyler, who is sentenced to 400 hours community service. After confrontations with the school governor (Rachel Griffiths), he shows up for janitor duty just in time. Nora (Jenna Dewan) needs a partner to practice her showcase routine, which will determine her future.

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Will he escape from the shackles of disaffection to find love and win the respect of his fellow man, crossing class boundaries, or is he forever destined to remain a knuckle-scraping troll with a bad headache? No prizes for guessing the outcome of this stereotypical script. Indeed, there is hardly a moment during the film that does not resort to cliché, formula or stock characters, excluding one showpiece dance routine, which is so good, it gets a half star on it's own - that and the often thrilling soundtrack.

Former dance choreographer, now director, Anne Fletcher has yet to learn what makes movies work as movies. Step Up is reminiscent of The Producers (2005) in its flat storyboarded sequences, with nothing to suggest the turmoil of her main characters. One wishes for the ingenious timing and editing of Powell and Pressburger's The Red Shoes, the fantasia of dancing, expressed through colour, motion and physicality. Fletcher, like Team America, needs montages and they're shop worn to hell.

Her film is undermined by a leaden and weak story, throwing sweet and sticky subplots at the viewer. Two gooey romances, a touch of tragedy and class division - witness the hilariously OTT credits, with their cross-cutting of rich and poor - and loyalty testing forces these two remarkable dancers to act.

On the plus side, it looks fine. Cinematographer Michael Seresin (Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban) lenses well and makes the film easy to watch. Also, Tatum is as pneumatic as cinematic hunks get, with a jaw fashioned with a set-square, and he looks the part in a tight vest and baggy jeans, although the reverse baseball cap does inspire Vanilla Ice giggles. The scenes where he tries to show us his lack of dancing skills are painfully unconvincing, reminiscent of the training comedy scenes in The Mask Of Zorro.

Step Up is a thinly scripted, inspiration free mess, involving disaffected youth of the blandest kind, with only a few flashes of excitement and flair.

Dirty Dancing, this ain't.

Reviewed on: 26 Oct 2006
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Another high school dance number.
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Chris ***

Director: Anne Fletcher

Writer: Duane Adler, Melissa Rosenberg

Starring: Channing Tatum, Jenna Dewan, Damaine Radcliff, De'Shawn Washington, Rachel Griffiths, Drew Sidora, Josh Henderson

Year: 2006

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


EIFF 2015

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