There seems to be an endless supply of dance movies where two kids from opposite walks of life come together and create the perfect moves. Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that the movies usually follow the same storyline with a few minor alterations here and there. In “Center Stage: Turn It Up” Kate Parker (Rachele Brooke Smith) is from Detroit and has trained herself in ballet by watching tapes of professionals, while also mastering urban dance for fun. Tommy Anderson (Kenny Wormald) is a former hockey player turned ballet dancer. Where “Center Stage” focused on a group hoping to make it as ballet dancers at the American Ballet Academy, “Center Stage: Turn It Up” follows what happens to Kate when she doesn’t make it into ABA. This film actually feels more like another sequel to “Save The Last Dance” or “Step It Up” than “Center Stage” .
From the moment Tommy Anderson saw Kate audition, he knew there was something special about her. After he makes it into ABA, he’s paired with Suzanne Von Stroh (Sarah Jayne Jensen) who not only has perfect form but a wealthy father funding her aspirations and a chunk of the school. Suzanne is, of course, the complete opposite of Kate; she is supposed to be classy and Kate is edgy. While Tommy and Suzanne work well together, his instructor Cooper Nielson (Ethan Stiefel, returning in the same role) says Tommy lacks fire and passion. Tommy knows exactly who will ignite his passion and so he seeks out Kate to help him dance.
After Kate doesn’t make it into the American Ballet Academy, she struggles to prove herself while working at a new club as a waitress/dancer after the owner sees how talented she is. She’s lucky to get the job because she has no money, no car (it got towed) and she can’t go back home because she told her little sister Bella (Nicole Muńoz) that she made it into the academy. In true formula, Kate and Tommy are the perfect dancing pair and both have something to offer each other when they practice alone. Kate teaches Tommy how to let go and just dance, and Tommy helps Kate perfect her ballet techniques.
Of course, what would this movie be without some love conflict? Suzanne is used to having everything she wants, and she wants Tommy. When she finds out that he’s been seeing Kate, she does what she can to pull him into her world. While Tommy isn’t necessarily interested in Suzanne, he does know how hard it is to advance in such a competitive field, so when he learns that he and Suzanne might have the opportunity to audition for an upcoming Broadway play, he goes with her to schmooze with her wealthy family. What’s wrong with that? Well, Kate is the waitress at the party and you can just imagine what that does to their relationship.
Despite all the generic twists and turns, “Center Stage: Turn It Up” isn’t actually all that bad. Parts of it are better than the original and that’s mainly due to the incredible dancing and the straightforward story. Where “Center Stage” had a lot of ups and downs and heavy-handedness, the heavy moments here come and go quickly which actually helps move the story along at a decent pace. While this film doesn’t spend as much time at the American Ballet Academy, the story does move between the ABA and Kate’s life quite nicely. If you’re looking for “Center Stage” with the insight into the life of an ABA dancer, than this isn’t that film. This is a film about a girl who has to find another way to achieve her dance dreams.
It must be noted that the acting here isn’t going to win any Oscars anytime soon, but the actors make up for it with their dancing. While I’m not the biggest fan of dance films (or all those dancing shows on TV now), I actually got caught up in some of the dance numbers here. One of the things that also stands out in this film are the quiet moments. There are some quiet, poignant moments in the film that capture the dancing in ways that the original never did. Thankfully for this sequel they pumped up the artistic approach to filming the dance numbers as well as more emotional moments.
The ending comes around just as you might expect, but thankfully there’s some nice moments that lead up to the somewhat predictable conclusion. With average performances and amazing dance numbers, “Center Stage: Turn It Up” is only for dance fans who haven't already had their fill of these sorts of movies. The majority of the film is dance numbers, and at only 95 minutes that’s a lot of dancing. Overall this is a decent sequel to an okay original.
VIDEO: "Center Stage 2: Turn it Up" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Presentation quality is generally quite good, as the film appeared crisp and well-defined at all times. Some slight edge halos in a couple of scenes and a few minor instances of artifacting were the extent of the presentation's concerns. Some fine grain was also seen in some scenes, but this looked to be intentional. Colors looked bold and bright, with no smearing or other issues. Overall, a fine enough presentation of the material.
SOUND: While much of the film remains dialogue-driven, the dance/club sequences certainly use the music to good effect, as it's nicely spread out across the front speakers into the surrounds, creating an enveloping, punchy and high-energy presentation. Deep bass can be heard during quite a few sequences, but the dialogue-driven scenes also deliver fine quality with crisp, undistorted dialogue.
EXTRAS: “A Look Behind The Curtain” A look at how “Center Stage: Turn It Up” came to be, including how more people are checking out the original due to the dance movement that’s taking place. With cast interviews, as well as some behind the scenes footage, this is a nice look at why and how the sequel was made.
“The Choreography of Center Stage: Turn It Up-From Classroom To Club” The discussion of how dancing in the film helps develop the story more so than the dialogue. They also talk about how they decide to incorporate Hip Hop and Ballet dance, and the choreographers they used to do so. The cast also discusses the focus and effort that goes into ballet, more so than some of the other dances. There’s also some focus on pro ballet dancer, Ethan Stiefel’s hip hop scene. Worth a look for fans of the film and dance.
Previews include on the DVD are:
“Blu-ray Disc is High Definition!”
“Private Valentine: Blonde & Dangerous”
“Rent: Live on Broadway”
“Girls Night In”
“Librarian 3: The Curse of the Judas Chalice”
“Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist”
“Stomp The Yard”
“13 Going On 30”
“50 First Dates”
“Sarah London and the Paranormal Hour”
“The Perfect Holiday”
“You Got Served”
Final Thoughts: While not necessary, this is a decent sequel that will entertain dance fans who haven't already had their fill of these films. The DVD offers very good audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras. Rent it.
The Film C