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A Real Step Up
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by Jon Ochiai on Aug 30, 2006
"Step Up" is derivative, predictable, and formulaic. That being said,
Director Anne Fletcher's hybrid classical hip-hop dance romance is
completely arresting and thoroughly enjoyable. I was surprised how
engaging the movie is. Within the first 20 minutes, you can predict the
outcome. And ultimately, it does not matter—not in the least. What
"Step Up" has going for it is a breakthrough star performance by
Channing Tatum. Tatum plays delinquent high school student Tyler Gage,
who happens to be a gifted street dancer. Tyler rolls with Mac Carter
(Damaine Radcliff) and his little brother Skinny (De'Shawn Washington).
After Tyler is caught vandalizing the Maryland School of the Arts, he
must serve his community work sentence at the school. Tyler catches the
eye of star ballerina Nora Clark (Jenna Dewan). She spies Tyler's dance
display outside the school. Nora is in a lurch. She is preparing her
senior dance piece, but her dance partner is injured. Dance company
reps attend the Senior Show. Nora makes a deal with her Mom (Deirdre
Lovejoy) that if she does not land with a dance company she will apply
to Cornell University. For Nora dance is her life—what she lives for.
Eventually, Nora strikes a deal with School Director Gordon (Rachel
Griffiths) and Tyler. Gordon reluctantly agrees.
Tatum and Dewan have amazing chemistry as Tyler and Nora. Of course
Nora has a self absorbed jerk boyfriend Brett (Josh Henderson), who is
on the verge of signing a record deal with the collaboration of
brilliant classical/ hip-hop composer Miles (recording star Mario). For
the first time Tyler is able to see the greatness in himself. But like
Mac reminds him, "You quit everything you start." So it is truly time
for Tyler to be responsible for his life and risk being extraordinary.
The "90210" and "Fame" trite melodrama aside, "Step Up" is inspiring
and you cheer for Tyler and Nora. Even with the corn ball predictable
story, "Step Up" is really about taking responsibility for one's own
greatness—which is everyone's birth right.
"Step Up" has spectacular dancing be it ballet, hip-hop or hybrid.
Jenna Dewan is a classically trained dancer. Channing Tatum is an
awesome street dancer on screen. I checked on-line that Tatum is not a
trained dancer—he a gifted athlete and martial artist. Tatum possesses
a star quality and natural charisma. Tall and handsome he has great
screen presence. Tatum plays basically a lug, but he is so charming and
has great range. Whether he is playfully trading dance moves with his
sister Camille (so cute Alyson Stoner) or fighting with a gang banger
in a club he always comes across real. There is a truth about Tatum's
performance. Though somewhat overshadowed, Jenna Dewan is winning and
beguiling as Nora. Dewan captures Nora's passion and heart. She and
Tatum have magical chemistry. That leverages against all the
predictability inherent in "Step Up".
Anne Fletcher as both director and choreographer is amazing. The final
dance number is killer. However, I found more compelling the training
and creative sequences with Tyler and Nora. Dance is a great discipline
and an art. Training and talent get you in the door. But art is all
about the feel, passion, and creation. "Step Up" possesses this quality
and there is such a joy present in this movie. The music is equally
stunning and captivating with its blend of urban beats and classical
The supporting cast is solid. Rachel Griffiths brings the right
compassion and gravity as Director Gordon. Mario is natural and strong
as composer Miles. Damaine Radcliff gives a street edge and
authenticity to Mac. Lucy Avila is charming as Nora's friend Lucy.
"Step Up" is great fun at the movies. Channing Tatum is a going to be a
big star. "Step Up" is a real step up.
April 14, 2021