This could be my shortest film review ever: watch Step Up for the dancing – the rest is a formulaic bunch of “whatever”.
But since you’re reading, here’s a little more. Like Save The Last Dance, Step Up is a teen dance/romance movie. The story follows Tyler Gage (Channing Tatum), a guy from the wrong side of the tracks, and Nora Clark (Jenna Dewan), a privileged ballet student attending a prestigious school for the arts. Tyler’s your typical bad boy, stealing cars, getting into scuffles at night clubs and – of course – dancing up a hip-hop storm. Lucky for him, trouble leads him into doing community service at Nora’s school. She’s busy preparing for a really important dance at the senior fall showcase, which will make or break her dance career.
Bad luck strikes when Nora’s dance partner gets injured, and she can’t find a suitable partner for the performance, only weeks away. With circumstances just right, maybe Tyler can be the partner to make her dreams come true. That’s your basic premise; throw in some teen melodrama courtesy of the supporting cast, and you’ve got yourself a cookie-cutter film.
But as I said, you can watch Step Up just for the dancing and not be disappointed. Tatum and Dewan obviously do their own dancing, and they do it really, really well. I’m no expert, but I certainly felt impressed by what I saw, and the two actors have a lot of onscreen charisma when they’re up and dancing. Off the dance floor, they’re still not half-bad, but unfortunately the story just plain falls flat.
The problems here are numerous. Dialogue is at worst awkward, at best predictable. The story progression is completely telegraphed by the expected adherence to formula, the manner of direction and the score, which ratchets up to announce all of the important moments. But then, I think we all know who this movie is targeted at, and the rest of us – if we’re unlucky enough to find ourselves watching the entire film – can at least experience the dance sequences.
What is interesting about Step Up is the way it was marketed through MySpace.com. I learned from the DVD’s bonus material that before the film was released, the producers held a dance contest for aspiring dancers to win a spot in Ciara’s music video for Get Up, the film’s main song. They put out the challenge for people to send in videos of their own choreography for the song, and then picked some finalists, which they then asked MySpace users to vote on. It’s a fairly novel concept, and one I imagine we’ll be seeing more of in the future.
So the movie is your average teen dance romance, with an extra helping of clichÃ©. How’s the DVD?
Step Up is presented on one disc, in 2.35:1 widescreen format. It looks nice and sharp, and is free of compression artifacts. In fact, everything looks just fine.
The main menu is animated, and scored.
English audio is Dolby Digital 5.1. All dialogue is clear, and the more aurally interesting sequences – i.e. the dance numbers – are well presented. Overall, this is a fine audio presentation.
Audio is also offered in French 2.0, while subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
Step Up comes with plenty of bonus material to sink your teeth into. Here-s the full offering:
- Audio commentary: by director Anne Fletcher, choreographer Jamal Sims, and stars Tatum and Dewan. Recorded vie conference call from various locations in North America, this is actually a really good track. Great rapport, and plenty of insight.
- Bloopers: about 90 seconds’ worth, and only so-so funny.
- Deleted Scenes: thank heaven these were cut. Enough said.
- Making the Moves: short at about four minutes, this features Fletcher et al again, this time discussing the film’s dance sequences. Not much depth here, but worth a look.
- Step Up Dance Contest: if you pick this DVD up for the dancing, you’ll probably get a kick out of this stuff. You can watch the director and the leads reviewing contest submissions, watch the five winning entry videos and watch the final music video. Be warned, though – you’ll be really, really, really sick of the Get Up song.
- Music Videos: four videos for your viewing “pleasure”. I imagine the target audience will enjoy these, but they weren’t my cup of tea.
- Trailers: the usual stuff, plus a promo for the film’s soundtrack.
Step Up is all about the dancing – the rest just gets in the way. As for this DVD, it’s a solid presentation of the film, and it offers up extra value in the special features department. Recommended if you like the movie.