I'll start a review of of "Step Up 2: The Streets" by saying...I generally can't stand these movies. This new set of dance movies that offer the thinnest whisp of a plot wrapped around a few big dance scenes just isn't for me. I can appreciate the athleticism and skill involved in the moves shown, but put them in a highlight video (or one of the several dance shows now popping up on TV) - for me, watching underdeveloped characters dance to try to save the rec center or win the big contest or whatever cliche plot is about as exciting as watching paint dry.
Still, I'll always give a movie a chance, and even something along the lines of "Step Up 2: The Streets" is no different. The film, which really doesn't have much of a connection at all to the first film, focuses on Andie (Briana Evigan), a dancer who focuses on going out with her dance crew instead of her studies. If she doesn't stop going out with her pals and putting on random acts of dance in public (a subway scene early on where Andie and her friends vault and spin around a subway is impressive not only for the moves, but for the fluid way that the scene is captured as the dancers fly out of the train and bounce through the station as they attempt to escape security guards.
Andie winds up at an audition at the Maryland School for the Arts, where her street moves don't go over well with the stuffy administrators. Still, she manages to make her way into the school - which doesn't sit well with her old crew, who feel as if she's abandoned them. While she's upset to get kicked out of her crew, it's not long before fellow student Chase Collins (Robert Hoffman) suggests that she grab nerdy Moose (Adam G. Sevani) and several other kids to form their own scrappy dance crew. It's no surprise that the two crews eventually make their way to "The Streets", the legendary local dance competition.
Evigan doesn't exactly look the part of the kinda tough girl from the streets - she plays the role like an irritable Hannah Montanna. Still, there's no denying that she's certainly got the moves and while I suppose I didn't believe her in the role, she certainly tries her hardest. She's matched well with Hoffman, and the two have good chemistry. The supporting players aren't going to win Oscars, but they do manage to not be totally forgettable in their on-screen time.
"Step Up 2" still doesn't step up in the plot department - the movie's story pulls together a tale pieced together from many similar movies from the past. The characters aren't exactly original, either, but at least they are a little more three-dimensional than some of the similar movies that have come out lately. Still, what impresses about "Step Up 2" is the fact that director Jon Chu manages to be one of the first directors of a film like this to deliver a strong visual style that matches the energy and creativity of the dancers, all of whom do the most impressive dance work I've seen in one of these sorts of films recently.
Overall, "Step Up 2" still doesn't change my opinion of this genre, but it is a step in the right direction, as the film's visual style captures the energy of the dance sequences well and the performances - while nothing award winning - are an improvement.
VIDEO: "Step Up 2: The Streets" is presented by Touchstone in 1.85:1 (1080P/AVC). The DVD presentation did look quite good, and I thought it was certainly above-average for a recent theatrical release. However, as good as that presentation looked, the Blu-Ray presentation is, quite literally, a few steps further up. Sharpness and detail were often very impressive, as the picture generally showed off excellent definition and pleasing depth to the image. Some minor grain is seen on occasion, but otherwise, there were no noticable concerns to the presentation. Colors remained subdued on the street scenes, but some scenes do sport brighter, richer colors that are well-saturated and never smeary. Overall, this was an excellent presentation all-around.
SOUND: "Step Up 2" is presented in PCM 5.1 by Disney. The soundtrack flares up during the dance scenes, where the rears kick in with the dance music and ambience. Otherwise, as one might expect, this is a forward-heavy sound presentation that largely focuses on dialogue. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue and rich, punchy music that has some very deep bass behind it. The PCM presentation is an improvement over the Dolby Digital presentation on the DVD, as the PCM presentation boasts tighter, deeper bass and slightly crisper, more detailed effects and dialogue.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes (including additional dances; all of the deleted scenes run a total of a little more than 22 minutes and offer intros from the director), 5 music videos, outtakes, video prank, "Meet the 410" and "Making of 'Step Up 2'". The extras are presented in HD.
Final Thoughts:Overall, "Step Up 2" still doesn't change my opinion of this genre, but it is a step in the right direction, as the film's visual style captures the energy of the dance sequences well and the performances - while nothing award winning - are better than expected. The Blu-Ray edition offers excellent video quality, very good audio and a handful of minor supplements. Recommended for fans of the genre only.
The Film C+