STUDIO:  Touchstone/Disney
MSRP:  $19.99
RATED: PG-13  
RUNNING TIME: 98 Minutes
-    Deleted Scenes
-    Music Videos
-    Outtakes
-    Lead Actor Video Prank
-    Outlaws of Hip-Hop – Meet the “410”
-    Through Fresh Eyes: The Making of Step Up 2

The Pitch

An all-singing, all-dancing non-canon episode of The Wire shot on classic MGM soundstages with a bit of Summer Stock mixed in with what is essentially the entirety of Save the Last Dance.

Everybody threw in the towel when the Voluntary Movement troupe concluded their performance with the ultra-rare, incredibly painful and complex ‘Punk Rock Gary Coleman Birthing’ move.

The Humans

Briana Evigan, Robert Hoffman, Will Kemp, Cassie Ventura, Channing Tatum and a whole multiethnic smorgasbord of dancing talent

The Nutshell

Andie is a hard-on-her-luck street dancer who lost her mother many years ago and has fallen in with the wrong crowd (the wrong crowd in a Disney movie, by the way, consists of those who perform illegal dance numbers in crowded subway cars and don’t go to school) and is given an ultimatum to either attend a prestigious dance school or get sent off away from her hometown to set her straight. She opts for the former and is quick to make friends with a ragtag bunch of dancers, realizing that the street isn’t the only place where dance is utilized for artistic expression. It’s there she meets Chase and begins a relationship with him. This complicates her relationship with her original crew, who feel she has sold out. This leads to Andi and Chase assembling a dance crew in order to step up (seewatididthere!) and prove themselves in the face of those who would like to see them fail.

Cassie and Dan would usually start out with a couple minutes of competitive epilepsy, to get the blood flowing.

The Lowdown

I was struck early and often during Step Up 2: The Streets by how much the movie reminded me of the classical studio musical of the ‘40’s and ‘50’s, mainly in how it managed to be both profoundly stupid and profoundly entertaining both at the same time. It even goes so far as to have the same character types: the mousy dork who is miraculously able to dance ala Buddy Epsen or Mickey Rooney, the incredibly talented dancers who maybe aren’t so much an actor but they pull it off anyway ala Ann Miller, and the people hired solely for their dancing ability who are usually out of focus in the background of any and all training sequences. And despite the fact that the setting and culture being depicted are decidedly at odds with the style of the movie (violence finally showing up late in the film is intensely jarring given how safe the movie was playing up until that point*), the movie for all intents and purposes and works.

Despite the rumors of diva-like activity on the set of Road to Perdition, Torrential Downpour proved to be an extremely professional co-worker on the set.

Briana Evigan does a pretty decent job as the lead as she displays a snarky quality to her acting that is appealing. However, she is relegated to the background during a lot of the dance sequences (most noticeably in the final one) which is strange for a lead actress in what amounts to a musical. However, she does have her one patented move, and she goes to it early and often. I call it Parkasson’s Disease***:

Robert Hoffman is fine as the romantic interest and the rest of the actors aren’t given much to do beyond dancing their fucking asses off, and that’s alright with me. So long as the actors in a film like this aren’t noticeably depreciating the quality of the film, the formula will carry the movie through to the good bits. And while it’s patently absurd for a movie to stress authenticity when it’s shooting the poverty-stricken streets of Baltimore in such golden hues that it wouldn’t be incongruous to find Gene Kelly waltzing around a street corner, swinging off a lamppost, the movie still finds a way to work. Despite the plot being utterly generic and disposable with a misguided somber elegiac beginning to the film, it finds its way reasonably quickly. Partially because the multicultural undertones of the movie with just about every ethnicity accounted for help tease out the ‘class/upbringing doesn’t determine your ability to dance’ subtly without beating you over the head with it. 

The crowd was revved up by one of Jason’s old standards: the “fall through the building’s skylight to my imminent death”.

And also because director John M. Chu realizes what the audience is here for and delivers on the promise of electric dance sequences early and often. From the bizarre first sequence where we meet our main character along with her dance crew performing an impromptu routine in a subway car dressed like some sort of Andrew Lloyd Weber meets The Warriors hybrid to the electrifying cameo appearance by the first Step Up’s Channing Tatum to the rain-drenched finale where we find out whether our not our group of rag-tag dancers can step up… to the streets. It really speaks to the quality of the choreography and Liu’s ability to capture its kineticism that despite the movie being generic as all get-out, it actually makes you believe in the notion that this dancing and these competitions are transcendent artful expressions worth fighting for. This movie is better than I expected it to be, and a whole lot of fun whenever people are dancing on screen, and luckily the filmmakers realize that and have loaded the film up with it. Recommended for fans of musical cinema and/or ass possession.

The Man in the Ceramic Mask or The Blantom of the Opera.

The Package

The cover art seems to want men and women to know that there’s a scene in which the two leads are dancing while soaking wet, I wonder why. The disc looks and sounds as good as a non Blu Ray release will look these days and there’s a little bunch of extras to go around even if most of them are geared towards the not-me crowd.  Most disappointing is the West Coast Riders and Jabbawockeez dance crews bonus dance sequences, but not for the sequences themselves. Instead, the music rights for whatever the crews were initially dancing to wasn’t acquired (understandably) for the special features of the DVD thus leaving some generic music that tries to sync up with the movements, but isn’t entirely successful. There’s a host of music videos that you can feel free to avoid, as well as some fluffy featurettes to pad out the release. It’s nice that they included what they did, even if it doesn’t really pan out for the viewers in the end.

*Although it should be said that this is a movie under the Disney umbrella featuring the line “Ooh girl, you’ve got titties”**
**Hasn’t been utilized since Mulan, if I’m not mistaken.
***Or The Exorcism of Emily’s Ass

7.5 out of 10

The Herbert West.