Let’s just get the first part of the review out of the way: There is absolutely no reason I couldn’t have run the review of How She Stepped Up, Stomped the Yard, and Got Served 2 a second time here, and the idea even crossed my mind. Step Up 2 merely continues along in the proud tradition of the teenage dance porn formula: Seventy-five percent filler material created for the sole purpose of featuring choreographic orgasms. The scripts are atrocious — adult video plotlines are more complex — and the acting is at pizza-delivery-boy levels. In fact, of all the teenage-dance porn flicks I’ve seen (and that would be exactly … all of them), Step Up 2 may actually feature the most heinous dialogue: A weird brand of Disneyfied Ebonics, as if Mitt Romney were trying to speak in hip-hop lingo (“I be textin’ you all day.”) The premise is the usual school of fish out of water set up, only reversed: While most of the dance films are about street dancers attempting to fit in with classically trained dancers, Step Up 2 goes the other way: Andie (Briana Evigan), a tough white-girl street dancer (and by “tough,” I mean she has a nice midriff), enrolls into the Maryland School of Arts and then forms a crew of classically trained dancers to compete in the ghetto: See what happens when pretty people clash with pretty thugs in the hardscrabble streets of Baltimore! In fact, to bring some faux Baltimore authenticity to it, the filmmakers even brought in “The Wire’s” Sonja Sohn to play Andie’s foster mother (oddly enough, Kima’s “Wire” girlfriend, Melanie Nicholls-King played the mother in last month’s How She Move, while “The Wire’s” Dierdre Lovejoy played the lead female’s mother in the first Step Up. If only Marlo Stanfield were around to put a few of these characters in a vacant).
And where is the (tenuous) string that ties Step Up to Step Up 2 together?: Well, both take place in Baltimore, and both feature Channing Tatum, though the sequel only sees him briefly: He challenges Andie to a dance-off, and when she loses, she has to audition for the Maryland School of Arts. Tatum thereafter disappears, to be replaced by an equally bland white boy, Chase (Robert Hoffman, who has had his share of dance films: You Got Served, From Justin to Kelly, and Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights), whose family is an institution at MSA, but he just wants to do some heavy-metal ballet freestyle bullshit. And, so he and Andie collect the school’s eclectic assortment of talented misfits and put together a crew to battle Andie’s former street-dance troupe, the (401). But, really, the plot, storyline, and the actressin’ are all pretty insignificant here. Teenagers don’t go to dance porn flicks for the story any more than creepy old men go behind the curtain at video stores for the transcendent plotlines.
And, in that respect, I suppose, if Dirty Dancing was the Deep Throat of dance porn, then Step Up is to dance porn what Jenna Jameson is to adult films (which would make You Got Served! the Paris Hilton sex tape). And if you judge Step Up 2 solely on that basis, it’s hard not to call it a success. I’ll reiterate, again, that — as a film, Step Up 2 is an abomination, and the screenwriters ought to be sent back to drafting cue cards for the “Mickey Mouse Club — but as a form of mild entertainment, specifically for its target audience: Step Up 2 is fucking incredible. I mean, lookit: I’m a southern white boy — I can’t even properly do the white-man’s underbite unless someone is pickin’ a banjo or blowing in a jug. Worse, I now live in a city where the closest thing we get to “dancing” involves middle-aged women belly dancing at the town festivals (for reals), which is part of the reason I’m weirdly attracted to these films: It’s something I don’t get to see anywhere else. I understand, just as anyone that can rub three brain cells together to create a flicker of mind power, that these movies are rotting cranial cavities, but the better ones also feature some zit-popping, heart-exploding dance sequences. They are, as the kids say, off the hook (and by “kids,” I mean Mitt Romney’s kids). And, since MTV dumped music videos 15 years ago, there’s not another mainstream outlet for this type of performance art anywhere in America.
And that, folks, is what these films are all about: Choreography and film editing. And having unapologetically seen damn near all of them, I can safely say that the dance sequences in Step Up 2, overall, are not only exceedingly impressive, but the big climactic rain-soaked urban battle sequence is fucking sick, folks. Sick. Hi-Hat, who has made a career out of choreographing these films (she also worked on How She Move, Bring It On, and Stick It), has completely outdone herself here. Unfortunately, knowing as little about dance as I do, my vocabulary in that area is limited, so I cannot properly describe the final 10-minute sequence except to say it is energetic, frenetic, kinetic, melt-your-face stu-fucking-pendous! I only wish that the theater-watching experience came with a remote control, so you could skip past all the talking and just watch the urban dance battles over and over again (nobody watches dance porn for the articles, after all). There is only a good 25 to 30 minutes of entertainment value in Step Up 2, but compare that to the 25 to 30 seconds worth of entertainment value in most of the other films aimed at this demographic, and Step Up 2 is a bargain at twice the price.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife and son in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.
Step Up 2 / Dustin Rowles
Film | February 19, 2008 | Comments ()