I’ve seen a few episodes of So You Think You Can Dance, the reality talent show that pits ballerinas against mambo kings to determine who America’s favorite dancer is, so I feel very qualified to review the new dance film Step Up.
After trashing an arts high school auditorium juvenile delinquent Tyler (Channing Tatum) pays his debt to society by performing two hundred hours of community service in the school. While sweeping floors and emptying trashcans he meets Nora, a beautiful, rich student who needs a dance partner for the school’s Senior Showcase. It just so happens Tyler is a talented street dancer and steps up to help her practice. Sparks fly, lips lock and two-steps are stepped as the pair fall in love.
Sound familiar? It should if you’ve seen the movies Save the Last Dance, Saturday Night Fever or even Dirty Dancing. It’s as if the filmmakers cut and pasted their favorite elements from those movies, and then added in a hint of another art school movie, Fame. It’s not very original, and it’s completely predictable but high school dance movies aren’t about the plot, they’re about good-looking people twirling on the dance floor. In this respect Step Up succeeds.
Director Anne Fletcher wisely cast two leads who can actually dance—I know they can dance because I watched some episodes of So You Think You Can Dance. Jenna Dewan as Nora, the rich girl who falls for the bad boy, is a professional dancer who has toured with P. Diddy, Michael Jackson and appeared in dozens of music videos. She knows her way around the dance floor and it shows, she’s natural and unforced in the dance scenes. Channing Tatum isn’t professionally trained but he has a natural street style that suits his character. On the dance floor they work well together and that chemistry gives the movie most of its strength.