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Feb. 17, 2008

"Step Up" hits the floor

by Priyanka Gokhale, Online Editor-in-Chief
The latest in a seemingly endless stream of dance-based movies, "Step Up 2: The Streets" fits the shallow mold perfectly. Rebellious misfits that moonlight as amazing dancers? Check. Screenplay so ridiculous that it's impossible to imagine someone actually writing it? Check. And a soundtrack that slides to the top of the charts within a matter of days? Check.

"The Streets" starts off years after the end of the first "Step Up." When teenage delinquent Andie West (Briana Evigan) clenches a spot at the prestigious Maryland School of the Arts (MSA), she loses her place in the 410 – Baltimore's hottest dance crew. With the help of cocky MSA legacy Chase Collins (Robert Hoffman) and goofball buddy Moose (Adam Sevani), Andie assembles an MSA dance crew that aims to compete against the 410 in "The Streets" – the city's most popular underground dance battle.

Step Up 2: The Streets

(released February 15, 2008)
Andie (Briana Evigan) and Chase (Robert Hoffman) salsa it up in "Step Up 2: The Streets.<i>Picture courtesy of Offspring Entertainment.</i>
Chips Rating:
2 stars
PG-13
User Rating:
4.5 stars Votes: 1
The fabulous dancing in "Step Up 2: The Streets" is weighed down by an empty plot and shallow characters. Photo courtesy of Touchstone Pictures.
It seems like an exciting enough premise, but minutes into the movie, it becomes all-too-clear that some of the cast members should have stayed on the dance floor. Evigan gives a vapid characterization of the intense Andie, delivering her lines with no apparent emotion. Hoffman transitions between preppy player to urban nightcrawler so fast that his character becomes clouded in his own ambiguity. Not that the storyline allows much room for character development: aside from the main characters, over 20 other teens – whether in the MSA or the 410 – have extended portions of talk time, adding to the confusing mess.

Surprisingly though, it's the smaller roles that steal the spotlight. Sevani is adorably goofy as the spunky sidekick Moose, and other zany dancers from the MSA are equally charming. From the stunt double specialist who looks like he belongs in "The Princess Bride" to the Asian exchange student obsessed with old-school hip hop, the interesting students from the MSA contribute to the film's little depth.

With each additional character comes an added level of confusion to the already hopeless plot. The scriptwriters insist on going beyond just one plotline – embracing multi-faceted storylines that further supplement the film's chaos. Thus, Andie's strained relationship with her late mother's best friend, the unpopular changes going on at the MSA and the various characters' incongruous love lives are all plotlines that stay somewhat unresolved.

In between the slew of characters and plotlines, the dancing offers a much-appreciated reprieve. Featuring choreographers from "Bring It On" and "Stomp the Yard," the film has a perfect blend of skilled movements and interesting beats. Where its predecessor focused on the synthesis of old and new styles of dance, "The Streets" dabbles in a wider range of mediums. Street dancing and salsa make their way into the movie, as does a sampling of ballet. In fact, the only memorable scenes are ones that feature dancing – dancing that goes far beyond the poor acting and thin plot.

There's only one correct way to approach a movie like "The Streets": DVD. Without unnaturally high levels of tolerance for clichés, a fast-forward button is necessary for skipping through the pointlessness and getting straight to the dancing.

"Step Up 2: The Streets" is rated PG-13 for language, some suggestive material and brief violence. It is now playing in theaters everywhere.



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